In our last post we discussed the inherent vulnerability in the Problem Statement; it documents the signs and symptoms of the problem, but not the problem itself. And, that the real problem is usually imbedded deeply within multiple layers of cause-and-effect.
This condition is problematic on several fronts.
I hate puns!
First, it makes problem solving seem simpler than it really is. Treating obvious and apparent signs and symptoms is easier than identifying and eliminating the underlying cause.
Second, by treating signs and symptoms we create a false sense of solution and accomplishment. Often our solution proves to be temporary, or worse, transient.
And third, if our treatment of the signs and symptoms turns out to be lasting, it forces the problem to manifest in more severe and less remediable ways.
That happened to me!
If, perchance, we recognize that signs and symptoms are indications of a problem, and not the very problem itself, then we stand a much better chance of solving the problem once and for all.
Okay, so what do I do?
Effective problem solving begins with a healthy appreciation of causality, or simply the relationship between cause and effect. The signs and symptoms that we observe, that indicate something is wrong, are the superficial manifestation of the problem. The problem may be directly causal (a primary cause) or indirectly causal (secondary, tertiary, quaternary, etc.) to the superficial effect.
And you said all that to say what?
Often, our problem solving efforts presume the immediate cause of the observed effect is the problem – direct causality – when in fact indirect causality is the norm.
Oh boy – here we go!
This means that the cause of the observed effect is really an effect itself, from a preceding cause, which is also an effect of a cause before that. Consider this a causality chain.
Whoa, whoa, whoa – are you saying that a cause is also an effect?
When problem solvers follow the causality chain approach, and incorporate it into the problem solving process, they are much more successful in determining the ultimate or root cause of the problem.
If a cause is also an effect, how do I know when I’ve got to the root cause?
For a cause to be the root cause, it must satisfy three conditions:
1. It is necessary to produce the effect or causality chain
2. It is sufficient to produce the effect or causality chain
3. Its predecessive causality is pluralistic and contributory, but neither necessary nor sufficient
My head is really starting to hurt.
One more thought on causality …
What is it?
More next time.