The other day, I overheard two guys talking. One was opening up about his recent divorce and where it all started, but the thought that caught me was – I wonder if he truly knows where it all started. I doubt it’s even possible to know where it all started. It simply isn’t discernible. Was it a recent poor decision? A fight with his wife? Some event that led to that fight? Some behavior which fostered the conditions that allowed that fight. Some character trait that… Well you get the picture.
Practically, I think it’s impossible to know the beginning. But I think the search for the beginning in this analysis is inherently flawed. Think about it. When people want answers or organizations perform post mortems and root cause analyses, they are always looking for the externality that can be blamed.
When you are looking for the beginning, you’re probably looking for some event that gives you some context and allows you to feel comfortable that it’s not your fault.
But what if we change the thinking around? What if, we ask ourselves, what was the last decision I made or action I took that might have prevented this? What can I learn from that? When we look for the beginning, I think we are looking for something outside of us. We’re looking for an excuse. When we look for our part and the things we have responsibility over, we face a much harsher reality, but we can come to a place where we have some ability to change. After all, you can’t change anything you discover from the beginning anyway, but you can change your behavior going forward from recent learnings.
Once upon a time works for fairy tales, but it isn’t that instructive in changing the course of your life or altering the trajectory of your organization.