Organizational and normal problems

Apart from an initiative, that is a type of problem to be solved, we have two different kinds of self-induced problems in our organizations, which origins are very distinct from each other. We have normal problems that occur due to mistakes, misunderstanding, mis-communication, Murphy's law, etc., which means that our way of working, was not followed. The other kind of problem is organizational problems, which originate due to deficiencies in our way of working. Normal and organizational problems are connected to each other, since if our way of working is not understandable, people will make more mistakes, which also will be the case if our way of working is not taking our human abilities into consideration. 

These different kinds of problems, we need to detangle, otherwise we only have "a mess - a system of problems", as Dr. Russell Ackoff put it. Both kinds of problems also means that we have some kind of incident, or beginning to an incident that we of course need to take care of here and now. These incidents can be activities that was not handled correctly, or in worst case people that are unhealthy. But, regarding the root causes to the organizational problems, it means that we need to change our way of working as well, otherwise the problems will be repeated forever. Another way to put it is that, if we have organizational root causes, they are built-in to our way of working.

An organizational problem is, like any other problem that occurs in for example production or in a product, just a symptom. This means that we must look for an earlier cause from our way of working, giving us this symptom. If this cause is not a root cause, it induces that it instead is just another symptom, that happened even earlier in the past. This leads to that it must be another cause, that happened even earlier, and so on. Remember though, symptoms can never be fixed, they are insolvable. This is the reason for asking multiple why on a problem in a traditional root cause analysis, otherwise we can never find the root cause. We need to find the root cause, since it is the only thing that we can fix, in order to get rid of the problem once for all.

But organizational problems are also very different from problems in production or in a product. In an organization we simply do not need to wait for an incident to occur, our people can instead individually just list the problems they see for the moment in the organization. And from different positions and levels within the organization, we can get a good enough representative list of all the organizational problems. From that list we can then ask why and be able to connect them all the way down to the root causes.

Please see here for more detailed information about difference between organizational and normal problems, or see here regarding some different examples of common problems and how to solve them.