What is the underlying cause of the problem?

Ejiroghene Ekpogbe Written by Ejiroghene Ekpogbe · 2 min read >

I have a lot to learn from the Analysis of Business Problems course. This means that I must always stay attentive if I want to catch the lessons from each class.

In preparation for a forthcoming class, we were to study a case. The case was titled “Can you analyze this problem? The case study was different from the other cases we had treated but I found it quite interesting to read.

In an attempt to analyze the case, I employed the systematic approach I had learned from previous sessions in the Analysis of Business Problems course. I began by identifying the problem using the what, who, why, and when questions. Then I went on to write my statement of the problem using my answers to the what, who, why, and questions. With the problem statement in place, I moved on to the next steps of the systematic or structured approach to the decision-making process.

I thought I had done a thorough study and preparation of the case but alas, it turned out that I still needed to do a lot more critical thinking on it.

On the day of the class, everyone showed up with readiness to answer questions relating to the case. I too had my notes ready. I had anticipated an interactive and engaging session.

As with other cases, we began the analysis by identifying what the problem was as presented in the case. There were a lot of responses from the class but all pointed in one direction. Of course, this was a no-brainer. The problem the company faced was easy to detect from the first few lines of the case.

The case analysis took a new turn when the faculty asked us what the cause of the problem was. “The cause?” Providing a cause of the discussion problem was new to us. We all had a lot to say, but it seemed that all our responses did not fully answer the question.

After we had several brainstorming sessions on what the real cause of the problem could be, the faculty provided guidance, leading us to identify what the real cause of the problem was. To my surprise, the obvious problems presented in the case were not the main cause of the problem but possible symptoms. I learned a key lesson that day.

I have also learned that I must know how to distinguish between causes and symptoms; symptoms indicate that there is an underlying cause. I must be careful to not apply symptomatic treatments as they lead to un-successive interventions and waste of resources.

To solve business problems effectively, I need to learn how to generate several hypotheses of the same situation. This is especially important when there are several potential causes of a situation.

While we analyzed the case, we all focused on what was obvious. The faculty explained that this was an act of our brains settling for the obvious and refusing to dig deeper. “What else can it be if it is not this?” – This is the question we need to ask and would prompt our brains to do more work.

I have learned that whenever I am faced with a problem, I should look for what changed and follow that “change” to a reasonable end. It is reasonable to follow this change or evidence when it is driven by data.

Every session in the Analysis of Business Problems course is packed with great tips for the business manager. However, my starting point for analyzing business problems is an understanding of facts and data. I need to learn how to identify and focus on the facts and data. Every case comes with facts and data but also with noise. The ability to retrieve the facts from the noise is key!


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