The Root Causes of Success

After the Viet Nam war, the children of that country’s poorer regions were suffering from malnutrition, a lack of clean water, and little health care. In a project undertaken by the Save the Children Foundation and discussed in the book, “Surfing the Edge of Chaos” Monique and Jerry Sternin moved to Hanoi to understand how this problem could be remedied.

Their approach was to study families of both healthy and sick children. However, they did a root cause analysis of why some children were well nourished and discerned that those families supplemented the primary rice diet with freely available fresh water seafood along with vitamin rich vegetables. They also fed their children more frequently than the undernourished children. They called their process “positive deviance” in that they looked at what worked and why. They disseminated their findings across the country and within 6 months of their study, over 2/3 of all children in Viet Nam were on the path to a healthy upbringing.

In challenging situations we get stressed and tend to focus on what is not working. A new leader comes in and we expect 90-day miracles without seeing the excitement that is permeating through the organization. A customer who always complains about something or other finally decides to leave your business and while some people are unhappy most are celebrating. Your business has a successful year but fails to meet “stretch goals” and so team members are punished.

We build resilience and success by focusing on what is working rather than what is not working and by understanding our successes, we find a path to repeat them.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2017


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