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Causes and Symptoms
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  • Understanding a problem means identifying the cause. Addressing symptoms will probably just create many more problems and unintended consequences.

    The difference between a cause and a symptom is that a cause is usually the result of a decision, whereas a symptom is the director or indirect result of a cause.

    For example, if a business decides to acquire another business then all the subsequent consequences are symptoms of that decision. The cause is the original decision.

    Sometimes it is not possible to solve a problem by removing or changing the cause, in which case it is necessary to understand relationships between the symptoms in order to avoid conflicting solutions and/or further, worse problems.

    Classic problems in the area of mergers and acquisitions are where each enterprise has different IT infrastructure platforms. It may be preferable to retain separate and distinct environments rather than consolidate the two. The value of having a single environment may not exceed the cost of consolidation. In fact it may be preferable if the organisation wishes at some stage to divest itself of the one or other enterprise. This can happen in both government and private enterprise.

    Understanding relationships between causes and between causes and effects is very useful when opportunities for decomposition of problems are being investigated. Sometimes it is possible to address problems in relative isolation, other times it is just not possible and the problems should be addressed together.

    Bernard Robertson-Dunn, 2011

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