Symptoms are the indicators that something is wrong, something is not functioning/performing as it should. When we have symptoms of a cold, we already have the cold. We can’t do anything to prevent it, perhaps, we can just make things a little easier to manage through it. And, we may miss the opportunity to prevent the cold from recurring.

In business and sales, we see similar things. We see symptoms or indicators that something is not right, or not working. We address those symptoms–and we may get through until the next time, and the next, and the next….

But symptoms are just that. They are indicators that something is wrong, it’s not working as it should. Addressing the symptoms doesn’t identify or address the underlying problems. The problems will recur, perhaps in worse forms, until we begin to understand what’s causing the symptoms to occur.

Until we address root causes, until we understand what is causing the problems or challenges we and our customers face, we will continue to face them. We will be stuck in an endless loop of addressing the same issue–every month, every quarter, every year.

But there are problems with this:

  1. It’s hard work! We live in a world where too many want the easy answers. We don’t want to do the work that forces us to understand, diagnose, evaluate, and correct.
  2. We are susceptible to miracle cures. This goes hand in hand with the inability to do the hard work. There are any number of miracle cures on the markets. For virtually every problem, there are a number of solution providers saying, “just do this……” Without understanding the specific situation, they have the solution do the problems. It’s easier to buy a miracle cure than it is to do the work to understand the problem.
  3. And when one miracle cure doesn’t work, there are always a number of others that we can try…. So we go from one miracle cure to another, never addressing the real issues. These do, however, provide us excuses. We blame the “cures,” and not the fact that we haven’t done the work to diagnose what’s really happening.
  4. Solving for the symptoms give us an illusion of progress, but rarely produce sustainable performance improvement. When we address the symptoms, we get some improvement. The symptoms disappear, for a period of time. But we haven’t identified how to prevent recurrence.

If we want to drive sustainable performance improvement, we need to understand the root causes. We need to diagnose, understanding what is causing things to happen, why they are happening, what we can do to permanently eliminate them.

What are you solving for?