If root causes have rather large contexts, why do Engineers drill down trying to get to the Bottom Of All Things so they can create The Ultimate Tactical Solution?
All the flotsam and jetsam you by-pass trying to dig down to determine the root cause is pretty important. Why toss it away? It provides the context of the matter at hand. In fact, it’s a science or two unto itself. It’s a combination of Business Archeology and Business Anthropology. And besides, determining – and “fixing” – a root cause without determination of the FULL context in which it resides is, well, useless.
Think about it. How many of you have proposed new processes, introduced quality initiatives, eliminated workarounds only to have your Pronouncement of Identification and Resolution of the Root Cause fall on deaf ears, at best?
How many of you have gotten in trouble with your boss because your solution butted up against his/her environment for evaluation, internal KPIs and award of bonus?
So you give up, get frustrated, gripe about things…. and basically wait until the next root cause situation where you do precisely the same routine all over again. Thinking: “this time will be better.” And it isn’t.
Didn’t Einstein say that doing the same things over and over again – and expecting different results – is his definition of insanity? Not Engineering, but Insanity. So why are you perpetually punching your own ticket?
When will you know it is time to do the same things differently?
Root causes have really large contexts. If you are rooting around solving problems in a vacuum, get your head out of the sand. The contexts of these root causes are the subject of corporate politics, internal dynamics, working relationships and the harmonic balance of Everything that goes on in your workplace. You rock that boat, and you will not create a ripple. You’ll start a tsunami. Even with the smallest of root cause analyses.
Perhaps you are your own Root Cause. Ever think of that one?
And you do have control over your own analytical thought processes. Why not work on them? Because doing the same things slightly differently will yield different results. You may not end up always feeling like a salmon swimming upstream, trying to negotiate buy-in at various levels you identify along the way. You may not get boxed out. Work on the flotsam and jetsam. It’s valuable.
If you know what you are getting into as you are digging it up, what precedes determination of the Root Cause may be the most interesting stuff of all.
Understanding the interrelationships of factors creating the problem are more revelatory than fixing the problem itself. Why? Because these interrelationships affect everyone in your organization. The Root Cause may not.
Root cause analysis isn’t there so that you can showcase your technical expertise and Quality / Lean acumen. Folks already know you are very, very smart. They know you went to very good schools where you did very difficult work and got a degree or two that not many other folks could have achieved. So what?
Your non-technical co-workers need to grow a set of left-brain antennae if they want to connect your context to their context. Because your optimum solution isn’t necessarily the best solution, once you start stepping back from the root cause to place it into a larger context.
This disconnect is THE root cause in the sales-engineering interface®.
It takes a lot of folks – and their contexts – to create a situation meriting root cause analysis. And they may have gone through a lot of work – for seemingly justifiable (albeit mind-boggling) reasons – to create that situation, normally called the Status Quo. And they just may not want it fixed. Why? Perhaps your solution is too disruptive to the context in which they choose to operate or have to operate.
So the next time you start to feel the need for Root Cause Analysis on your event horizon, think twice about going for the jugular and the optimal tactical solution.
Take a step back or two. Take a deep breath. Observe. Then collaborate.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.