Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Are you managing the symptoms or the root problem?

When I was engaged in consulting, specifically in process re-engineering and strategy, the reason that we were usually brought in was to bring and independent point of view and ensure that clients were really getting to the root cause of problems instead of just addressing symptoms of root problems. Working inside a business, it's very easy to become reactionary to symptoms and to address symptoms quickly and assume that you've addressed root problems.

I never really had a term for symptom management vs. root problem management, but Seth Godin has coined this term:
Let's define "bear shaving" as the efforts we go to do deal with the symptoms of a problem instead of addressing the cause of the problem.
That's awesome! Love calling it bear shaving -- brief, to the point, and interesting in conversation.

Seth has some great examples of bear shaving on his post (link below), but think about this:
  • Record companies complain about lack of album sales and the rise of the sales of singles, but are not investing money to find bands that can produce great albums (they only seem to be finding new bands that can produce singles).
  • Book publishers constantly express concern over a $9.99 price point for new release books when there are virtually no production and distribution costs instead of re-imagining their industry as their traditionally greatest costs head towards zero (how do you judge an e-book by its cover, especially when it's in grayscale and the size of a postage stamp on your Kindle?).
Don't let this happen to you and/or your business; as Seth suggests: call it when you see it.


1 comment:

Process Improvement said...

Interesting term: Bear Shaving. From my experience as an analyst for a variety of business entities in the past few years, the reason that business decision makers decide to take the short cuts in resolving the problems is: Budget or fear of uncertainty. Many of senior managers I met were quite intelligent and wise to know the root causes of the problems. But unless someone(consultants/analysts) provides a "quick-win" strategy or solution, these business leaders will continue to SHAVE THE BEARS!

Please read more information regarding "quick win" in the following link: