The Root Cause

Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems


            People ask me WHY I wrote THE ROOT CAUSE: Rethink Your Approach To Solving Stubborn Enterprise-Wide Problems ( Well, that’s what this series of posts is about.

            Did you know that the working title of THE ROOT CAUSE was CEO ADVENTURE?
Why would you; how could you? However, starting with a “did-you-know” question seems to make for a nice opening. Let me tell you about the WHY behind CEO Adventure.

            My career started in earnest when I left private banking for change management within the Information Technology and Communication (ITC) department of a major bank. I was intrigued by what happens behind the scenes; the WHY behind the WHAT, HOW, and WHEN of the business so to speak.

            Finding answers to why-questions instils understanding, which facilitates change; solving problems with current processes, and implementing new processes for new products and services. After all, you cannot understand a system until you try to change it said social psychologist Kurt Lewin.

Facilitating Change

            Personal experience taught me that implementing change management initiatives, which is the opposite of conducting routine operations, requires the use of formal project management techniques. However, no project succeeds without Executive Sponsorship for Change™―the responsible executive needs to delegate authority to a dedicated project manager, and allocate all necessary resources to the project.

            Truth be told, executives tend to withhold their sponsorship for those change initiatives that confuse them―a confused mind says “NO”. How can they be expected to understand WHY a proposed course of action is THE RIGHT THING TO DO when experiencing an unintended and unwanted EFFECT, without knowing its root CAUSE(s)?

The Right Thing to Do

            The antidote to confusion is UNDERSTANDING; knowing the WHY that justifies your choice of action as “the right thing to do”, given the circumstances here and now, and its foreseeable consequences. This requires making Quality Judgments for OURSELVES.

            Making quality judgments for ourselves scares the heck out of most people, because it reveals who they truly are; what they think, believe, or value in their hearts of hearts; what their priorities are; what motivates them in life; what they stand for as a human being.

            Yet, demonstrating to be in possession of a particular MORAL excellence―virtue―is understanding that the differentiator between ordinary and extraordinary―doing ordinary things extraordinarily well―is QUALITY!

            Robert Pirsig’s epic book ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE: An Inquiry into Values, is a search for QUALITY; what it IS. Despite his conclusion that quality cannot be defined, and his recognition that he has no formal rational way of knowing that quality exists if he can’t define it, he concluded that anyone can distinguish between that what IS quality and that what IS NOT. We recognize that what IS the right thing to do because it gives us peace of mind!

Making Quality Judgments for OURSELVES
            Instead of defining Quality he DESCRIBES it as:

“the continuing stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live.”

            We are continually stimulated by our environment because everything in life is subject to change―seasons come and go; we grow older; we have new experiences; we develop our minds and skills; we create that what not yet IS, and we destroy that what IS. Hence, what we decide to do or not to do CREATES the world in which we live!

            Then, you may ask, what determines if a change management response to this continuing stimulus is a Quality endeavor?
Well, every class and text on change management contains standard principles, rules, and techniques. How you employ these determines the nature and character of your change management initiative.

            Making Quality Judgments for ourselves means you’ll have to choose between:

  • Implementing standard principles, rules, and techniques unquestioningly by rote because it’s profitable and that’s how you were taught, or just to fulfill a change management assignment and be done with it. Change managers who conform to these artificial imperatives―best practices―destroy their own creativity. Alternatively they can choose to . . . . .
  • Apply standard principles, rules, and techniques as a MEANS―a device for improving quality―to the END of producing what really counts, which gives those principles, rules, and techniques PURPOSE.

Aspects of Quality

            Standard principles, rules, and techniques become PURPOSEFUL when they are used to enhance any aspect of a quality change management endeavor such as effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, employee buy-in, humanity, environmental consciousness, social responsibility, robustness, transparency, honesty, civility, integrity, morality, ethics, timeliness, adequacy, elegance, simplicity, sophistication, and any other aspect of which you can think.

Personal Standards of What Is GOOD

            How you fulfill THE GOAL OF QUALITY doesn’t make a bit of difference, as long as your work reflects your own personal standards of what is GOOD. Hence, it’s your choice of what you call GOOD—quality—that defines you.

            Pirsig noted that:

“People differ about Quality, not because Quality is different, but because people are different in terms of experience. . . . [I]f two people had identical a priori analogues they would see Quality identically every time.”

            What are YOUR analogues of Quality; Quality of your value proposition and Quality of the business processes that create and deliver your value proposition? Do you know?

CEO Adventure

            Pursuing Quality is a personal choice. And, willingness to accept a call to adventure, an invitation to experience new and different analogues of quality may well provide you with the RIGHT answer to your quest for a solution to stubborn systemic problems. That’s how every hero’s journey starts; with a call to adventure. Will you ACCEPT or REJECT the call? What’s YOUR vision for the world you’d want to create?

            The hero’s journey is a cycle of separation or departure from the world of common day, fulfillment—trials and victories of initiation within a supernatural world—and return followed by reintegration with society. The objective of this journey is getting to know your true authentic Self with capital “S”; your identity―everything that scares you to make a quality judgment for yourself. What makes you doubt yourself is your ego; who you think you are, who you believe you are, what others tell you about yourself, or how you think others expect you to behave. The hero’s journey is the story of human maturation.

            Comprehension of what you will learn within the supernatural world requires a Mind Shift—the proverbial knock to the head—because it’s on a plane or trajectory different from what you were taught about, and experienced in the world of common day. And, as a returning hero you will know how to knit principles of both worlds together. That means for change management ECONOMIC principles and HUMANISTIC principles.

            For example, using economic principles exclusively has resulted in a wide swath of people problems, ranging from disengagement to the war for talent, and nowadays quiet quitting. Applying more of the same economic principles is only going to cause more of the same unwanted effects. Using humanistic principles to the exclusion of economic ones is not likely to work well either. You’ll need to knit them together, which requires satisfying the goals of QUALITY. And now we’re back at where we started. Nothing changes structurally without Executive Sponsorship for Change, which requires a Mind Shift, which is the objective of a hero’s journey!

            And so, I wrote a book about my experiences, and McGraw Hill published it.
Take a peek inside THE ROOT CAUSE 

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