Itâ€™s been traditional within performance consulting to talk about cause analysis or even root cause analysis. Â This implies a mentality that we can get to the cause or primary factor responsible for the performance gap. Â This also seems to imply a linear â€œstart-stopâ€ relationship of sorts.
Klaus Wittkuhn has written about this issue. Â His point is that a systems approach (and a good performance analysis requires a systems approach) would reject the idea of a linear scheme with a clean start and end. Â If weâ€™re truly taking a systems perspective to performance, than we have to honestly admit that issues are circular. Â That means that the concept of â€œa causeâ€ is probably flawed.
That said, this doesnâ€™t eliminate the importance of doing cause analysis. Â To admit that something is circular and that there may not be a â€œcauseâ€ does not mean we shouldnâ€™t look for influences or leverage points that allow us to determine what shapes a particular performance issue (and therefore where to act if we want to minimize the gap).
So taking a systems perspective on performance problems, it means it probably makes more sense for us to talk â€œleverage pointsâ€ or â€œinfluencesâ€ than root causes. Â And approached the right way, this refocus may actually make client conversations easier. Â Rather than trying to debate about what is really â€œcausingâ€ the problem instead we can just take the position of regardless of the â€œcauseâ€ weâ€™ve identified a critical point or an influence or a leverage point.
Joe Willmore, President