The Root of The Issue

One of the questions I often find myself asking clients is “What is the real issue here?”  Leaders know that working with only symptoms can provide short term momentum, but not sustainable change.  Often we deal with symptoms because the core issue seems insurmountable.  But a leader who wants to change an organization or collective ignores causality at his or her peril.

I often make the comparison with clients to an iceberg.  There is the part of the issue we see and can try to deal with directly.  Then there is the part just under the water, which we can see with some effort and intention.  But the real mass is far below the surface and anything we do that does not impact the whole will  not be sustainable.

This example, as reported by BBC, caught my eye today.  Sweden’s new legislation allowing publishers to gain access to information about those who illegally redistribute their books, movies, television etc. went into effect on April 1.  The country as a whole saw a wholesale drop in web traffic- about 33%.  So there is impact on the part you can see.

But conventional wisdom and experience in other countries says that this restraint will last only until those who are downloading content illegally figure out how to do so anonymously.  So while the information will allow publishers to sue owners of major servers sharing files that they do not own such as The Pirate Bay, it will not get to the root of the issue.

At the base of the challenge is the belief that it is acceptable to share or accept music, books or other media files that you have not paid for.  Outside of the debate about ownership (That is another topic altogether.  I cannot understand why there is a debate.  Stealing is stealing.) there is the issue of the larger mass.  Until you change people’s beliefs about ownership rights to creative work, there will be only the smallest change in behavior.

Most successful change leaders know that to be successful, you have to deal with symptoms for early wins, but sustainable change requires a deep dive to understand the mass of the challenge- and a strategy to move that mass.