The Root Cause

Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems
What Would Sun Tzu Do? - CEO Adventure Book

What Would Sun Tzu Do?

FORTUNA was the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck in Roman religion. The Late Antique author Boethius provides us with a visual description of Fortuna turning her wheel:

Inconstancy is my very essence; it is the game I never cease to play as I turn my wheel in its ever changing circle, filled with joy as I bring the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top. Yes, rise up on my wheel if you like, but don’t count it an injury when by the same token you begin to fall, as the rules of the game will require.”

Success stories worthy of remembering, celebrating, and recounting over and over again, are not due to Fortuna, but to other forces. Forces such as the laws of God and nature, which can be defined as love, understanding, humanity, or compassion. Fortuna’s gifts are fleeting and may be withdrawn at any time, because that is her nature.

Business is an ORGANIC or SOCIAL system; a network of 1) component parts and 2) their connections or relationships. Component parts are a business system’s organizational units and their people operating and interacting with information technology, machines, and other tools. Connections and relationships are the interfaces between organizational units. Unfortunately, these interfaces are treated as a no-man’s land for which no hierarchical leader seems to take any responsibility—a perfect example of the Not-My-Job-Syndrome.

Leaders who are oblivious of the vital importance of these interfaces for the success of the business—including their own jobs—are ignorant of employees’ determination and sense of responsibility for doing a good job. They are in fact the glue that holds everything together.

Today, it is NORMAL to pin your hopes for success—increasing bottom line results—on Fortuna. Best practices dictate that all you need to do is implement ever more advanced efficiency improvement or cost-cutting measures. Leadership studies play their part by focusing on the many ways employees—excluding leaders themselves, of course—fail, and prescribing preventative solutions. In addition, human “resources” are hired as independent outside contractors, thus reducing pay-roll cost. Consequently, employment has become a one-way street; the business demands of you contractually to give all you have to give as a resource, while deferring liability for most if not all taxes, benefits, or responsibilities to the “human resource”.

Today, it is also NORMAL, or common practice for leaders to complain about those human resources and their lack of loyalty to the business, their lack of engagement, and their continual search for another employer. In good English, that’s called Chutzpa.

Instead of analyzing the human condition—our fallibility—leaders would be more effective when focusing on measures that improve the conditions under which people work. After all, it is no secret that obeisance to the aforementioned laws of God and nature will improve those conditions—knitting together principles of humanity/spirituality with those of economics.

As a leader, rely on your own mental capacity to imagine what those conditions could be. Then, ask yourself, which factors will ameliorate these conditions and which ones will deteriorate them? And, what would employees want from their employment―a relationship to which they dedicate about a quarter of their lives! What would you yourself want? I bet, high on your list are doing meaningful work, experiencing pride of workmanship and enjoying a sense of accomplishment. How about expectation of a safe work environment, reliable and trustworthy superiors, people of whom you know they’ll have your back when you make a mistake. Why wouldn’t anyone else want that too?

What would you want from your employees? Talent, reliability, dependability, responsibility, dedication, resourcefulness, what else? Then, reliant on your own mental capacity, which factors do you think will ameliorate expression of these characteristics and which ones will deteriorate them? Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, starting with safety and security for themselves and their dependents. You cannot expect people to have their minds on the job when they worry about the home front; health, finances, job security, and their ability to pay bills.

There is so much talk about A-players and A-teams, and so little about the most basic human requirements—preconditions—for superior performance. Think of a great work environment characterized by proper resource management, organizational processes, and –climate. And, people need to be healthy, both physically and mentally. So, relying on your own mental capacity, which measures that you yourself can instigate do you think will enhance their overall state of health and that of the work force in general, and which ones will do the opposite? Business is a system which runs smoothest with the least amount of internal friction and conflict, and you know that. So, what’s your next move?

Today, unquestioned following of Best-Practices is NORMAL. After all, we assume that the big guys, the industry- or market leaders know what they’re doing—but do they really? Consequently we:

    • Hire the same consultant who gives the same advice of ordering the …
    • Same technology (hardware/software), which is provided by the …
    • Same OEM, expecting to obtain the …
    • Same cost advantages by sacrificing your differentiating qualities, thus ending up with the …
    • Same value proposition as your competitors, forcing you to compete on the …
    • Same remaining differentiating feature called “PRICE”, which results in attrition competition, which is won by the one with the deepest pockets.

Creating Your Own New Normal

Sun Tzu (722–481 BC) was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy.

Sun Tzu says:

Continuously concerned with observing and probing his opponent, the wise general at the same time takes every possible measure designed to prevent the enemy from shaping him.

Sun Tzu says:

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

Sun Tzu says:

Of old the skilled first made themselves invincible to await the enemy’s vincibility.

Invincibility lies in oneself.

Vincibility lies in the enemy.

Thus the skilled can make themselves invincible.

They cannot cause the enemy’s vincibility.

Thus it is said, “Victory can be known. It cannot be made”

Allowing competitors to shape your business causes your vincibility!


Success is not achieved IN competition, but in preparing business systems to compete if and when the time comes.

Hence, invincibility lies in one’s own Business Governance™―how you design, structure or organize, implement or operate, maintain, and manage your business system.

Today, what we call NORMAL, causes our vincibility at the hand of competitors and incidents of force majeure.

Tomorrow, your NEW NORMAL is characterized by a different definition of success; Becoming the Obvious Choice Supplier to Every Member in Your Target Audience. When your business governance shapes an Obvious Choice Supplier status for your business, your target audience has no reason to explore competing value propositions.

When being Obvious Choice Supplier is your NEW NORMAL, you must be pursuing the purpose for which the business system was created. Hence, your business must be radiating Mojo, which signifies “the type of business to which customers feel an intimate connection—the type they identify with and want to be associated with because they share the company’s values; or because they perceive it to be authentic, true to itself, the real McCoy; or because they know they can always count on it to come through; or just because they think it’s cool.[i]

Yet, a business with Mojo is still at the effect of Fortuna. However, it finds itself on the hub of the wheel where the ups-and-downs are far less dramatic than on the rim; on the outside of the wheel. Where would you rather be on the Wheel of Fortune? You have a choice!

Remember, greatness is found in performing ordinary tasks extraordinarily well; not in any special, fancy, exuberant, grandiose, and over-the-top features.

I’m here to help you shape your Business Governance to create a NEW NORMAL. Read more in The Root Cause: Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems.

[i] From Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham.


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