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Root cause and nimbleness


Trust you are all well and are well on the way to achieving what you set out to achieve in the first quarter of the year. This is because the end of the said first quarter is already upon us.

The secret is to have a project manager (outsourced or in-house) whose main job is to ensure the strategic path (laid down at the beginning of the year or three years ago) is followed strictly. If this does not happen and members of staff are expected to add strategy follow through to their usual jobs, many things will not get done. The strategy document will remain in someone’s drawer unimplemented until it becomes obsolete or until the next strategy session.

Whether you are a new company or an old company, you must always be sure that you are solving a root cause problem and not a symptom-problem. Serious entrepreneurs will usually set up a business where they identify a need. Usually, this need should be to solve the root cause and not the symptom of a problem.

When you solve a symptom only and not the root cause the problem will not only remain but it will get worse. I always like to use the example of the treatment of Malaria symptoms. One of the symptoms is a bad headache. If just the headache is treated the patient will either get worse and eventually die or will just die immediately. Whatever way the patient will die if the root cause of the ailment is not diagnosed and treated.

I will give you the example of the pharmaceutical industry that built a nine billion dollar income industry round a symptom. For many years, there was a condition called ulcer. This condition was the perforation of the lining of the stomach. Not only was this condition excruciatingly painful it could also lead to death from peritonitis or the person could bleed to death. The doctors who did not really know what caused it decided they would in conjunction with the pharmaceutical industry treat the symptoms.

They told patients not to eat certain foods that would aggravate the condition. Told them not to be stressed out because stress also aggravated the condition. They then prescribed stuff that never cured anybody but alleviated the symptoms. For very many years the pharmaceutical companies cashed in on this and built a very huge and highly profitable industry out of this.

Anyway, almost by accident, there was a man who then won a Nobel prize for his discovery, when he discovered that ulcers were actually caused by bacteria that could easily be destroyed by some antibiotics and the patient would be completely cured. The same bug was apparently responsible for some types of stomach cancer. Needless to say, very many people had died from “ulcers” because the root cause was going untreated.

My point is that when you are deciding on what you want to set up a company around, be sure you are dealing with the root cause and not just a symptom. Only solving a root cause will make your organization relevant forever.

How you find out what a root cause problem is, takes more than just thinking through data. You may need to use various management planning tools that will help you quickly zero in on the true root cause. Without proper tools and a facilitator, symptoms may masquerade as root causes.

Even when you are solving a root cause problem, your organization must also be nimble enough to recognize when the problem you are created to solve is no longer root cause and move on to an equally relevant root cause.

So take a bank for example. The initial reason they were set up was to be a safe place for people to keep their money. From when banks were set up to now, even though they are still a place to keep your money safe, they have also become a place where you can do so many different transactions that they are much more than just a place to keep your money safe.

The reason you want to be nimble is also to ensure you remain relevant. Even if you are solving a root cause problem, there is the possibility that needs change because times have changed but there is also the possibility that someone with a better idea can come and overtake your reason for existence.

Can you pre-determine everything? Not so, especially these days that one invention can make a huge section of the economy obsolete. There are times that deciding everything before you start may not save you but the nimbleness of the organisation will.

An example of this is the American telegram service that was initially set up to send communication very quickly from a person to another person. We can now all do this using our phones. When the technological age began, the telegram service was made obsolete until they decided to start wiring money long distances by using the same means as sending a telegram.

For weeks now I have dwelt on vision, the why and now the accuracy of the company solutions to solving root cause problems. You are probably wondering when I will start talking about the management of human resources. The truth is that so many things have to be put in place and agreed upon before you start talking about the people.

We are told that everything we would ever need was created before God created man. I find it intriguing when I realize that Coltan the main part of what goes into the making of a mobile phone today is mined from what was created at creation in DRC.

The more work that goes into the thinking of the why, the vision, the root cause and the nimbleness of our organisation, the easier it will be to draw up what jobs the organisation will need, what sort of personnel will be required, how and where to find them, how to recruit and engage, retain and make the personnel fulfilled and therefore an asset.

All this preparation before launching into the activities of the organisation will impact on the type of brand to be built which again directly impacts on the type of people to be employed. They have to be those who will be sure to deliver on the brand promise of the organization.


Olamide Balogun

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