Matthias T.

SR² (Symptoms, Root cause, Solutions, Responsibilities)

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Helps to pinpoint and tackle latent problems in a team.



  • Create a shared understanding of what's going wrong (aka talking about the symptoms and that they're problematic).
  • Identifying these symptoms' root cause (e.g. bad processes, missing communication, lack of competences, ...; several might be true)
  • Outlining solutions to tackle the actual problem - not the symptoms (you might want to utilize creativity methods here; everyone should feel heard/ represented by such potential remedies).
  • Defining responsibilities to ensure that such solutions will be implemented (or at least that the process of improving as a team continues).

After the team has gone through all the steps another important goal is typically achieved: Commitment!



    • This approach always follows to a thorough discussion of e.g. a certain problem (malfunctioning communication). During this discussion you should already make notes on symptoms and root causes. 
    • These are you anchors when you now go through the four columns step by step. At best, you don't switch from one columns to the other but you want to have all symptoms named at first, then you're talking about the root causes, etc.
    • Alterntively you can let everyone write down the SRS on themselves so that they then present them themselves.
    • Is perfectly suited as an ad-hoc intervention/ method when you want to structure a discussion that seems to go around in circles or when the respective team isn't able to pinpoint the problems themselves.
    • Prioritize the solutions (cost-benefit ratio) and probably also the symptoms (how heavily do they affect the daily work; how problematic are they) and root causes (how easy can they be changed).
    • Plan at least 45 to 60 minutes, even in smaller groups, as this approach invited to discuss...a lot...which is desirable as they often discuss way too little on an everyday basis.
    • Hint: Typically it's advised to questions/ challenge the root causes named by the participants. Often teams try to make others or the organization responsible though it's them not capable to e.g. set priorities. 


    I am running workshops teams have to evaluate their leadership competences. In detail, it's typically a mid- to top-level leader (following: leader) together with his/ her direct reports (mostly low- to mid-level leaders; following: directs). Utilizing an online tool 1) everyone has to evaluate his/ her own competences based on a comprehensive set of questions, and 2) the directs have to evaluate the leader's competences. The rating itself is anonymous but the results are then discussed in the group, i.e. that the team discusses e.g. why they seem to be unable to delegate tasks appropriately or the directs feed back openly why they don't feel appreciated by their leader.
    However, at first such discussions are often about what's going wrong (Symptoms). Then, it's typically my task to help them figure out why they're not performing better (Root cause). The whole team then has to define counter measures (Solutions) and who'll be responsible (Responsibilities) to ensure improvement/ sustainability of the workshop outcomes.

    Most often the first root cause to be mentioned is that they don't have time due to deadlines that have to be met, or because the workload is way too high. However, typically, the actual root cause is that the team is unable to prioritize or deprioritize appropriately as they lack a shared vision or clearly defined path to go. 

    Anyways, though this method seems to be a "no brainer" it actually helps to visualize what everyone most likely already knows but is nevertheless not capable to change due to the stressful daily business. It helps to make "the obvious" tangible, transparent, a shared understanding by everyone, and the discussion creates commitment to changing the situation to the better.

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