When leaders of organizations ask me to come in and consult about a problem they’re experiencing, their goal is to make the organization well again. In most cases, they’re trying to understand how to make change happen, but have been shipwrecked due to multiple issues. But in 90% of the cases, they’re only focused on a symptom of a much bigger issue, but don’t realize it. It’s much like the difference between illness and disease. “Disease” is a physical issue. It’s what you see on the surface in the form of cancer, a stroke, or heart attack. But “Illness” is the real issue you ultimately have to deal with. It may be
obesity, poor eating habits, genetics, or stress. It’s the personal and social problem that underlies the disease.
Just ask a nurse – they know the difference.
What I’m getting at is that what you THINK is the problem, may only be a visible symptom of something much more systemic and potentially more deadly. You can treat the disease forever, but until you solve the illness, it will never be fixed.
In the physical world, it’s about a deep network of psychological, social, environmental and other relationships.
And in a similar way with organizations, you should know the difference when you’re trying to fix a problem. What you think may be the problem may really just the visible presence of a deeper network of social, relationship, cultural, and even psychological issues we need to deal with first.
As a result, some clients aren’t happy with my ultimate answers because it’s not what they expect, and since they don’t “see” the illness as much, they don’t consider it a priority.
But without fixing the illness, the disease keeps coming back over and over again. Then one day, often without warning, you’re dead.
The deeper background issues matter. They may not seem as important as the in-your-face problem that’s driving you crazy, but to make positive change happen, you have to deal with both.