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That traditional logic is unfortunately very weak. That logic only works if we can really find those roots. But, take a look at this. This is ‘my categorization of problems’

Level 4: Problem – Symptom. People arrive systematically late. Nobody reads the briefings. Promises are made but not kept.

Level 3: Problem-Problem. Collaboration is bad across the board. There is little sensitivity to other people’s needs, time or commitments.

Level 2: DNA-Problem. It is a very individualistic fabric. People are hired mainly for their capabilities (expert model) and rewarded exclusively for their individual contributions. The behavioural fabric is very transactional (I need this, you give it to me; you need that, I’ll give it to you when I can), and very poor in ‘relationships’ (we are all here together).

Level 1: Value –Problem. Very low trust culture, in which everybody is defensive (in case they are attacked) and colleagues are seen as a vehicle for personal goals in the best case, and as people who could stab you in the back, in the worse.

You will never be able to prove cause and effect between levels. Don’t even try. It’s the wrong approach in organizations. Organizations are a network and need to be understood as an organism, as a system. What matters is the inter-dependence of these things, in the case above, ‘problems’.

The traditional approach to organizational problem solving is to tackle the root. Everything else is seen as a consequence, a symptom. But people are fooling themselves with ‘root causes’. In a system and a network you will never be able to ‘find’ the (only) cause, but you want to accumulate and map enough ‘relationships between things ‘as to get very close to it. See the map, see the connections, don’t worry about ‘cause-effect’.

The modern approach to organizational problem solving, which has principles that lay at the core of our Viral Change™ Mobilizing Platform, is it’s focused in disturbing the system, mainly by the injection of strong non-negotiable behaviours. As such, it may look counter-intuitive that we may address something other than the ‘root’. Dare I say, tackle symptoms! Horror!

If I have a way to change something at Level 4 (peripheral, ‘symptomatic’ level) and I can do it at a scale, it may be enough to touch the entire system, at other levels. Imagine that, ‘suddenly’, people arrive on time, well read, and on the whole, they keep their promises to other colleagues. Close your eyes and imagine this happening 100 times across your organization now. And tomorrow. Then perhaps 200 times. Believe me, you are not just fixing ‘time management’, or ‘knowledge management’, or responsibility or accountability (I promised X, here it is); you are mastering collaboration, increasing trust at the speed of light and shaping a better relationship culture.

In systems and network terms, it does not matter where you start if you can scale it. In organizational terms based on those network principles, actually you need to start where more distortion and impact can be created and scaled. Scale is the magic word. So, ‘increasing trust will lead you to keeping promises’ is the wrong direction. Keep promises (at a scale) and you’ll get trust, even if you did not have a very good definition of trust to start with!

By the way, this has nothing to do with the ‘small wins theory’ . There is nothing small about redirecting the whole energy towards trust for example. But suspend judgement as to where to start. It may turn up to be  in the most unlikely and ‘peripheral’ place.

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