The unicist root cause finding method is an upgrade in the management of causality and problem solving that integrates a unicist ontological approach, which allows managing the root-causes of problems in complex adaptive environments.
Complex problems have, among other characteristics, open boundaries and have no variables with cause-effect relationships, but instead they have interdependent elements with bi-univocal relations integrated by the conjunction “AND”.
The Functionality of the Method
The unicist management of causality is based on the unicist ontology of the complex adaptive systems that describes their nature and defines the concepts that regulate their evolution.
A problem exists when a functionality, that has been defined as possible to be achieved, cannot be fulfilled.
The unicist approach to problem solving defines three types of causes that are integrated in the concept of problem causality.
- Triggering causes: that define the operational causes that generate a problem.
- Necessary causes: that define the root causes of the problem.
- The limit causes: that define the boundaries of what is possible to be achieved.
Unicist Systemic Business Problem Solving Methodology
The Unicist Systemic Methodology is focused on the evaluation of facts independently from the explanations that are given on their causes.
As this methodology considers reality as a systemic problem, its concept is to find the cause-effect relationship of its variables. The objective of the analysis is to find the causes that generate the problem.
That is why the verbal information that is been collected is considered as an input for the analysis. The verbal information has a double functionality:
- It describes the existing beliefs on reality, being their valid or fallacious.
- It is a fact in itself, because of its relationship with the functional facts.
The USM begins by describing the facts or results that are being evaluated. To do so, it divides the unified field that is being scrutinized into the different facts that integrate it.
Description of the Context and the Idea of the Goals to be Achieved
a) Change of the context
The context defines the credibility zone of an activity and as such defines the value that can be added to the environment.
When the context changes and systems are not able to adapt naturally, problems begin to exist without being the consequence of dysfunctional decisions or actions within the system.
Therefore, the first step of a problem solving methodology is to define the present and future scenarios that define the context of an activity and compare them with the original context when the actions were defined.
This contextual change can be considered as the most influential cause of problems. Structural changes in the context require structural changes in organizations.
b) The goal of the system
The goal needs to be defined integrating the final purpose to be achieved, the generic “how” of the solution that will be developed and the definition of “what” is the system that is being researched or developed.
This description will provide the guiding idea for the work that is being done. The goal has to be adapted to the present and future context of the activity.
Description of the facts
Facts are defined in their objective and functional elements. The factual description avoids the appearance of perception fallacies. This description is analogous to the description of the problem. It may or not include the people who deal with these facts, depending on whether they are considered or not part of the problem.
The stage implies making a detailed description of the processes that drive to the goals that need to be achieved. This description includes detailed information of the restricted and the wide context that influences the processes.
When it is a problem solving case the description includes the processes where the problem appears to be. As this is a hypothesis, the description will require an expansion if the problem lies in another process.
The language to be used in this description has to be factual and specific, which requires extreme focus on the functionality of the facts. Generic descriptions are dysfunctional and drive to fallacious analysis.
It has to be considered that the description is the input to all the analytical work developed in the USM. It replaces the actual reality during the process; that is why the description has to be true and complete.
The description defines a virtual reality that is used to do the analytical work without including any other information from the actual reality.
Description of the Informed Causes
Every organization is essentially human because it has been imagined by people. For the same reason, the organization never turns out to be in reality exactly the same way it had been imagined.
Evaluating a specific reality requires understanding the underlying concepts and how they were imagined.
That is why it is necessary to begin the description of the “objective” facts scrutinizing the subjective aspects of reality.
The goal is to obtain reliable information on the causes of the problem or fact based on the opinion of the people involved.
These causes might be or not the necessary causes. If they were not, there is another deviation to be considered as part of the problem to be solved.
Informed causes allow adding the subjective aspects to the problem. The natural trend of ordinary people is to deposit on others the problems they have.
The solution of systemic problems requires evaluating their subjective aspects, differentiating the people who can add value to a solution from the people who only profit from it or who are affected by it.
Description of Accessory Facts
Accessory facts are those that have a subordinated complementary or supplementary relationship with the central fact.
If a fact is driven by certain causes, these will necessary generate accessory facts that will help to define it.
At this stage, it is necessary to describe the accessory facts or those that appear to be such. This description needs to be done by making successive approximations based on the existence of common causes.
“If it rains, it will get wet”. If the central fact is the “rain”, it is necessary to find the elements that have gotten wet to accept the validity of the existence of the “rain”. It is possible that the rain is inexistent if nothing is wet.
Besides, we could see people using umbrellas, cars using windshield wipers, etc. The reliability of the description of a fact is sustained by the accessory facts that are found based on the causes they share.
It is always one last drop that makes the cup run over. Finding that “drop” is necessary to differentiate the triggering cause from the cause of what filled the cup.
It is necessary to find the triggering causes of a problem in order to control them and avoid misunderstanding the real problem. The triggering causes are usually nearby the informed causes.
Necessary causes are confused with triggering causes when the information on a given reality is being scrutinized through the people that are part of the “system”. This allows depositing on the triggering causes the responsibility of the problems.
The necessary causes are defined based on the information that has been produced. If the necessary causes cannot be found, it is necessary to widen the study to a deeper level of analysis. These causes have to explain both the central facts and the accessory facts.
Necessary causes need to be consistent with the input of the ontogenetic maps that define the reality that is being analyzed. These logical structures are the input provided with the definition of a problem to be solved, which is based on fundamental analysis using ontogenetic maps.
Thus, the USM is complemented with the use of the logical structure of the objectives to be achieved that allows confirming the hypotheses of the necessary causes of the problems. This implies that it is necessary to have apprehended the conceptual structure to find a systemic solution to the problems to be solved.
Until the concept of the solution has been understood, it is necessary to install palliatives, which are naturally driven by the suppression of the triggering causes, to avoid the expansion of the problem.
To confirm the validity of a necessary cause, it is necessary to make a validation test that can be based on previous homologous experiences or a non-destructive pilot test. Systemic causes integrate a network that defines the fact that is being analyzed.
These causes can be described as semantic networks, flowcharts, a PERT or any method that allows defining the precedence of entities that allow dealing with causes.
These graphic descriptions represent the taxonomy of the “logical structure” of the facts.
Definition of the Limit-Causes
Limit-causes are conditions that cannot be changed and need to be considered as unchangeable characteristics of the environment.
It needs to be accepted that there are causes that cannot be changed because they are part of the context.
This stage requires using the available knowledge to define which causes cannot be changed and have to be considered as limits to be accepted.
Using the Information Produced to Define the Goal to be Achieved
This goal has to fulfill several conditions:
- It has to be possible with the resources that are available or can be introduced.
- It has to have an evident utility in terms of the goals to be achieved.
- It has to be aesthetic and desirable, covering centrally the unsatisfied needs of the participants.
- It has to be credible for all the members participating in the solution.
This stage implies defining different alternatives to achieve the goals.
Each of these alternatives has to be analyzed in terms of the implantation strategy, defining their taxonomy and the level of participation at each stage.
The change management methodology needs to be considered when this methodology is used to define solutions that imply implementations and not only punctual implantations.
The bigger the change, the more it becomes necessary to divide it into medium changes to make it possible. Participation is the core aspect to be considered when developing solutions that require change management of business processes.
Expert Systems to Sustain Methods
The unicist expert systems are alternative tools for any method that deals with business problem solving or solution building.
They were developed to manage the fundamentals of business processes by managing the root causes of processes to develop solutions in adaptive environments.
With multiple specialized modules to solve specific problems, these systems manage the unified field of the business processes to manage their functionality, dynamics and adaptability.
Note: The R&D work of this technology/methodology was led by Peter Belohlavek at The Unicist Research Institute.
The Unicist Research Institute