Leaders often discover a truth rather quickly when leading any group of people or organization. This enlightenment is that the problem is rarely the problem. What I mean by this is that the problems that present themselves are rarely the cause of the issue. A leader can spend a large portion of their energy and effort dealing with the symptoms of problems rather than digging deep into the issue and finding the root cause of the problem. One of the great differences between a good leader and a poor leader is that the poor leader focuses on and manages symptoms whereas the good leader focuses on and manages the root of the problem. So, the question must be, how do I dig beneath the surface of a problem to discover the root cause? While it may not be the most scientific method to discovering root causes of problems, I have personally found a simple and effective methodology to unearthing root causes. The only thing required is asking one question….. WHY? Asking why something is happening gets you underneath the surface, but I have found that the greatest way to unearth the root of the problem typically requires asking why up to five separate times. For example……
- Why are sales lagging? Because fewer people are shopping at our store.
- Why are fewer people shopping at our store? Because our marketing campaign is not connecting.
- Why is our marketing campaign not connecting? Because we have not clearly identified our target market.
- Why have we not identified our target market? Because we will not admit who our product appeals to.
- Why will we not admit who our product appeals to? Because we are unclear as to the vision of our organization.
While this scenario is hypothetical, it shows how a leader can move from wondering why sales are lagging (a symptom) to recognizing that the vision of the organization is actually unclear and therefore not focused (root cause). As a leader, what problems have you been facing that seem to come up over and over again? It could be time to build some curiosity and dig deeper to deal with the root cause of the problem so that your organization can deal with the problem and move forward.