new year path

Focus on the cause

I really enjoy these meetings. With so many employees working remotely it is rare we get to all see each other. It’s still pretty early though, and we are going to be starting with a video clip. Is that really such a good idea this early… just don’t turn out the lights. The jet-lag is getting to me, and if they turn off the lights I might just nod off.

Uh-oh. The projector is displaying a very skewed image on the screen that drops down from the ceiling. If you haven’t worked with projectors you might not know that there are buttons, or sliders that can compensate for the various angles the projector might be situated at in relation to the screen so that the projection is still displayed correctly. Yet playing around with all the different settings didn’t seem to make a difference with the terrible distortion we were seeing on the screen.

So we call an A/V tech that does this stuff all the time. A few minutes later he arrives with cables in hand. Apparently he didn’t quite understand the problem at hand. The projector was projecting, just not as we expected. He too started to play with the little dials on the top of the projector hoping an adjustment would make the difference. Nothing seemed to work.

All the while, the presenter is trying to buy some time. We decide to move on to another activity while we wait to figure out what was wrong with the projection.

This second activity will require we put some chairs in a circle so we go to collect chairs.

The largest stacks of chairs are right  behind the projector screen. When we pulled out the chairs, and once removed… miraculously the image displayed on the projector screen was no longer warped.

What does this have to do with focusing on the cause? And furthermore, what does this have to do with business?

Does the following sound familiar?

The deadline for project X is fast approaching. So far, a lot of time and money has been put into making this project a success. Then something unexpected happens. More money is thrown at it. Maybe consultants or vendors are brought in to advise (like our A/V tech), and they may have some understanding of the problem, but they too attempt to solve the problem the same ways internal team did. All to no avail.

Do you report to management that project X is bust? It’s hard to swallow that much pride.

Of course what I am about to tell you is easier said than done, but what really needs to happen is a deep reflection on what is causing the issue. Treating symptoms is costly, and time consuming… not to mention demoralizing.

We treat symptoms all the time. From the laws we pass, based on reactions of past world events, to taking pain pills when we have a fever, we prefer to react than to proact (is that a word? Maybe not… but it should be.) or be proactive. Where we should be spending our time is focusing on fixing the cause of the issue.

What symptoms are you treating?

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