4 Common Root Causes of Business Problems


Over the years, we’ve worked with thousands of companies to help them align their business objectives with their High-Definition Destination (HDD) to generate the results they want. One of the biggest issues we see when businesses come to us is that they’re unsure of where exactly their business problems are coming from. Because every company is unique, there’s no one-size-fits-all template, but there are four common categories that are usually responsible for those problems. We help identify these problems through root cause analysis.

Four Common Root Causes of Business Problems

1. Core

At the most fundamental level, a business cannot exist without its people. To create a high-functioning team, organizations must get the “right” people on board. When employee issues arise, many businesses make the mistake of blaming the problems on a particular individual. But keep in mind, you brought that person onto the team, and if they weren’t the correct fit for your culture, that means you’re lacking in one of these core areas:

  • People: Hiring practices and screening, employment policy, sufficient external labor sources
  • Training: Knowledge and skills that should exist given known or anticipated needs
  • Standards: Defined processes, instructions, guidance or doctrine
  • Strategy: Plan is clear, measurable, achievable, and supports the achievement of the High-Definition Destination
  • High-Definition Destination: Clear, compelling, and high-resolution

Learn More: How to Turn Yesterday’s Revenue Miss into Tomorrow’s Direct Hit.

2. Planning

There are six possible root causes that fall under the category of planning. Each corresponds with one of the six steps of mission planning. If your planning process doesn’t mirror these steps, then you can definitely attribute your business problems to this root cause:

  • Objective: Clear, measurable, achievable and supports strategy and Future Picture
  • Threats: Risks assessed to include known threats and “known unknown” threats
  • Resources: Available resources identified to negate, mitigate, or avoid threats – additional needed resources identified
  • Lessons Learned: Draw upon experiences of team/entire organization and lessons learned databases to improve the plan
  • Course of Action: Clear, written course of action with “who, what, and when;” reviewed through red teaming
  • Contingencies: Planned response to threats with clear triggers

Learn More: How to Design a Strategic Planning Session with Afterburner’s FLEX Method

3. Team

In this category, we find a set of root causes related to the elements found in high-performing teams. High-performing teams don’t just form out of the blue. They are created by taking these six core components, executing them properly, and instilling them within their culture. Businesses that are lacking in these six areas tend to see most of their business problems arising from this category:

  • Leadership: Leader holds self and team accountable, models appropriate behaviors, and enforces standards
  • Organization: Physical organization of things, unambiguous roles and responsibilities; organization and coordination of meetings
  • Communication: Brief plans; maintain clear expectations and alignment between individual activity and Future Picture; maintain situational awareness
  • Knowledge: Collaborate and include cognitive diversity on the team; seek the best information possible
  • Experience: Include both novices and experts on the team; brief to accelerate experience
  • Discipline: Adherence to standards and plans

4. Execution

This is the most obvious yet underlooked problem that businesses face. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “hiding in plain sight?” Because the way that your business operates is already deeply ingrained into your day-to-day practices, determining that an execution issue is at the root of your problems can be difficult. The biggest and most dangerous root cause of them all is task saturation.

  • Task Saturation: Too much to do and too little time to do it, mitigated by the practices below
  • Crosschecks – Priorities: Prioritize and execute to the highest priorities first, particularly when task saturated
  • Mutual Support: Team members support and value each other; aid others that are task saturated
  • Checklists: Use wherever appropriate; utilize course of action as a checklist
  • X-Gaps: Short, focused team meetings to analyze execution to date and close execution gaps

When collected throughout your organization, root causes provide the capacity for the identification of recurring root causes. If you do these 22 things right, you are as close to a guaranteed win as possible in the uncontrollable world of business, but ignore them and chances are you’ll miss the mark.

Digging deep to find the underlying cause of your business problems can be tough, especially when they’ve become habits. If you need help identifying your root causes, let’s chat. Our team at Afterburner is made up of experts at building cohesive teams, spurring innovation, and aligning your business plans to successfully execute missions down the road.