Behavior is the hardest to change

I”m definitely a believer that in virtually all cases, not just social entrepreneurship, determining the root cause is essential. Of course it will be difficult and time-consuming, but is through that difficulty and effort that you will come to learn so much more about the issue at hand than you could have any other way. In your search for the “root” or “roots” (more often than not there’s more than one I think), you will learn more about the symptoms of the problem, the remedies for those symptoms, the connections between the symptoms and the causes, and most importantly you will learn more about the people involved; their lives, their story, and their strengths and weaknesses. If the only outcome to a root cause analysis was just that you came to know the people involved on a deeper level and nothing else, then I would still say it is worth it.

Now to answer the actually question of this post, “What makes determining root cause of an issue difficult in your mind?”

I think there are several reasons why a root cause analysis is difficult, one being incredibly obvious; because it’s difficult! I think so many people and organizations are hesitant to performing a root cause analysis because they are afraid to get their hands dirty and because they know that it will take time and money. They know that if they start a deep investigation then they will likely uncover many other problems that they don’t have the time or resources to solve, and so they don’t even try. Like we talked about in class, it is sometimes a lot more marketable and easier to pitch a project that aims at solving a very visible problem, or “symptom,” then a project that aims at solving the more unseen, complex, and difficult problem, or “root.”

However, beyond this surface level reason for why a root cause analysis is difficult, I think the biggest reason is because the root of the problem often deals with a person’s behavior, which is the hardest thing to change or influence. It is relatively easy to dig a well, build an efficient stove, or lend an aspiring entrepreneur a small loan, but it is hard to correct a bad habit that could be detrimental for recovery from the poverty cycle.

I am by no means an expert on behavior, but there are many reasons that I can think of for why it would be so difficult. One is that people are naturally stubborn and resistant to change, especially when the call to change is from an outsider. Another is that change is scary and takes a lot of courage, trust, and risk. Yet another is that often there are seen and unseen cultural and environmental differences that make it really hard for us to understand what kind of behavior change should even occur if there needs to be one. Something that we might view as a needed change may just be part of the culture that cannot be avoided, or maybe it is part of the culture that should be changed but it will take a lot more than just one individual to change it.

Overall, I think for a root cause to be a true, effective root cause, then an element of behavior-change must be included, which is precisely the reason why it can be so difficult.

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