• Bram Eekhout

Why every organisation needs an X-ray at some point.

I am writing this post because I really want to share a personal story about something that happened to me and has had a lasting impact on me. I see a parallel between what happened to me and what is happening at many organisations.

In my late teens, during a soccer game, I sustained a foot injury. I was in permanent pain, I couldn't walk anymore in a normal way and sports were basically out of the question. I went to see a doctor and the diagnosis was that I had a dislocated midfoot bone. The doctor referred me to a physical therapist who would 'massage' my foot into place again.

I quit playing sports, took painkillers and saw the physical therapist regularly. The swelling subsided and I could walk relatively normal again, but putting pressure on it was still out of the question so the physical therapy sessions were really painful. In the end I went to see another doctor because of the effects this injury had on my life. He immediately got me a proper X-ray and his diagnosis was that I had broken my midfoot. A few months had passed between the first and second diagnosis, and in that time my broken midfoot had healed itself in the wrong way. I underwent surgery where they chipped away at my now disfigured midfoot and got it back into the right shape again.

About 20 years later I can now walk normally again, run again, but putting real pressure on that bone and foot is still out of the question. After that injury and wrong first diagnosis I could never play soccer again normally forcing me to quit. Failure to uncover the root cause of my injury, and subsequently properly treat that root cause, caused me a lot of pain and has had long lasting effects. Looking back I should have had that proper X-ray right away, but I also should have been pushing sooner for a second opinion to uncover the root cause of my pain once I noticed it wasn't getting better with the treatment I was receiving.

Every organization goes through pain and discomfort during some period within its existence as well as people. Pain and discomfort can come in many forms, f.e. high turnover rates, operational inefficiencies, failed software implementations or cashflow problems. Their root causes often get misdiagnosed, or the treatment is only focused on pain relief leaving the root cause untreated. This results in symptoms showing up again at a later time or at a different department.

When you feel that your organization is in pain and want to get to the root cause of that pain in order to solve it do not wait too long and get a proper X-ray. Identify the root cause and start the right treatment. If current treatments of organizational problems are not producing the right results do not wait too long and get that second opinion. That is the advice I would now give my younger self, and it is the advice I give to organizations nowadays.