Let us imagine a scenario that most of us experienced in our lives.
You are driving on an expressway with bad weather conditions. It is snowy, foggy, the roads are slippery and the wind is strong. Trees and other objects started to fall on the roads. Suddenly, the car in front of you stops and you make an emergency stop. The car behind you hits you. Who is the cause of the accident?
Let us examine the possible causes.
The driver of the car in front of you got confused because the incoming cars splashed water and had their highlights on with both factors reducing vision for him. He got confused and stopped suddenly. The brakes of his cars broke on a slippery road because of the falling snow and that added to his confusion. Cars in front of him dropped oil, which formed a slippery think liquid film on the road. The sunlight appeared suddenly preventing the driver from seeing clearly.
You could not predict the behavior of the driver in front of you going fast and suddenly slowing down. Alternatively, the driver was busy talking and messaging about the bad weather and suddenly stopped because he was unaware of an incoming risk.
These are some of the causes of the car accident. Studying them, we find that we may divide them into the following categories:
- Human factors
- Road factors
- Weather factors
- Vehicle-related factors
- Sudden surprises such as animals crossing or trees falling
The causes may combine and feedback to each other with the complexity of what caused the car accident rising. Normally, the driver of the car behind is guilty, but what about other factors that led to the car accident?
I want to say the cause and effect emerges and is not a clear-cut one. Several interfering factors led to it. The innocent may suffer the blame and guilt caused by others.
The F of SCARF calls for Fairness for all. Where is fairness in this car accident? Complexity led to its loss. I conclude that fairness and complexity are incompatible.
Extending the same analogy to business
Management and leaders drive business on a speedy motorway. The same factors that applied to the cause of the traffic accident may lead to the failure of a business.
The business environment.
The business drivers.
Customers, changing patterns of customers.
In addition, competitors and surprising “falling” events on the motorway of business such as emerging new technologies and sudden new market entrants.
Sudden disrupting events such as Covid- 19 that turn the business climate foggy and uncertain.
These factors combine and mingle so that a new cause-effect relationship emerges. If the business fails who is to blame? The tendencies to blame the business drivers lack fairness because this tendency rushes to blame the management for failure. No wonder we see the sacking trend is on the rise.
I experienced a similar case. I consulted for a telemarketing company, which experienced a rapid fall down in sales. The owner decided it was the fault of the salespersons.
I asked him how he arrived at this conclusion for fear if they were not to blame the problem shall only escalate. I did a field study. One finding was that the employees who answered the phone before channeling them to the right salesperson were mostly new. The way they answered the phone was rude. They angered the customers who in turn spoke angrily with salespersons. Friction started and customers just abandoned the company. The act of the reception tellers initiated the trouble. In addition, who was to blame> the poor salespersons. Fairness becomes foggy with increasing complexity.
Do we live in a huge paradox of asking for what is getting more difficult to achieve? My answer is yes.