Moss, trees, and root cause

Photo of a gray rock with lovely green moss patches growing on it.Have you ever really looked at moss?

Many years ago, my mother and I went to a botanical garden where all the “lawns” were moss. (How many years ago? Somewhere around here, I have the VHS video cassette from that garden, promoting the concept of moss lawns!)

I could argue that moss wants more shade than most lawns, and that it’s really hard to weed.

But wow. There were so many different types, colors, and textures of moss. Who knew?

Moss is great. But it’s not the whole garden.

Moss has its place. There’s a boulder in our front yard that has lovely moss on it.

But moss isn’t the whole picture. In fact, it’s just a tiny element of the whole garden.

Why am I blathering on about moss?

Because I often point out to clients that it’s not even a question of not seeing the forest for the trees. They’re so far down in the problem they’re trying to solve – they’re watching the moss grow on the forest floor.

Yes, of course details matter. But if you’re always focusing on the details of a problem, you’re almost certainly missing the bigger picture – and the real root cause of what you’re trying to solve.

You’re not seeing the trees, never mind the forest.

I see so much time spent, effort expended, and resources consumed on chasing symptoms, instead of stepping back to see the bigger picture. So much reactivity instead of thoughtful response.

If you want to create change, don’t be a moss-watcher. Step back. Look at the trees. Further back. Look at the forest. All change is a reaction or a response to something, and usually that something isn’t the surface-level detail thing; it’s bigger, deeper, and probably systemic.

Taking the time to ask questions and diagnose the real issue will save time in the long run, and will certainly make your change initiative more successful and sustainable.

Which is not to say this is easy; it’s not. The root cause of problems can be hard to get at, especially when you’ve been part of the organization for a while. Familiarity creates blind spots. And yes, sometimes an external perspective is necessary to point out what to them is obvious, but to you is just part of the every-day scenery.

Have leaders in your organization been watching the moss grow, and trying to figure out why it’s not growing as fast – or where – you want it? Curious to see what you could be doing differently, to get to a forest-level perspective? Drop me a note through my contact form and we’ll set a time to talk.