How often do you ask why?

 “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.” Henry Ford. [Tweet this]

In life and business, there are so many important WHY questions you can ask. WHY do you do what you do? WHY didn’t you achieve your goal? WHY doesn’t the design work? WHY did the process fail? 

Asking WHY forces you to think of possibilities. To the question”Why haven’t you finished the task?”, the answer could be that you just haven’t organised your time very well. To probe a little further, you might question “Why haven’t you been better organised?” to which the response could be that you have had too much on your plate.

Why questions help you to get to the root of a problem. Asking why helps to uncover the action that needs to be taken enabling you to help prevent the problem from happening again. This can be difficult and challenging but it can lead to growth and success.

Ask yourself or your team why and allow enough time to uncover the answer. Think about it carefully or you may end up solving the wrong problem.

Solving a problem

The first step to solving a problem is defining it. Write it down as this helps you to formalise exactly what you are trying to resolve.

  1. Ask why is it happening
  2. Write down your answer
  3. Ask “Why is this so?” to get closer to the root of the problem
  4. Write down your answer
  5. Keep asking why until you feel confident that you have identified the root cause and can go no further.

At this point, an appropriate counter-measure should become evident. A counter-measure is an action or set of actions that seeks to prevent the problem arising again.

Continue this line of questioning so you end up asking ‘Why’ about five times to analyse and peel away the layers of symptoms that lead to the root of a problem. However, there may not be just a single root cause. There may be several points of failure. Identifying and addressing these can prevent future problems.

“It is better to improve the process rather than constantly sticking bandaids on mistakes.” [Tweet this]

Here is an example.

Problem: Your client is refusing to pay for the leaflets you printed for them.

  1. Why? The delivery was late, so the leaflets couldn’t be used.
  2. Why? The job took longer than we anticipated.
  3. Why? The printer’s turn around time was longer than expected.
  4. Why? We didn’t ask the printer how long the job would take.
  5. Why? We assumed that the printer would complete the job in the same time as the last job they did for us.

Counter-measure: We need to find a printer who can can guarantee to turn over a job and deliver with short notice

 Do you care? Are you prepared to take action?

To effectively ask why questions you need to ensure you see and understand the problem and have all the information. You also need to care that there is a problem and then you need to be prepared to take action to fix the problem.

When you ask these five whys, you find your way to the resistances in your business that keep you from doing what you want to be doing. Taking the time to really think about a problem allows you the opportunity to reveal something you can fix. You are playing an active role in learning more about aspects of your business. What you reveal might then lead to a big change. Take the time to ask why and you will be better prepared to move towards an improvement.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”  Albert Einstein [Tweet this]

It is easy to get caught up in what we are doing so we forget to ask the questions that lead to growth and success. Constantly asking why might seem annoying but it should follow a line of questioning that helps to resolve the underlying issues. It is important to explore all possible options before time and effort is wasted.

So dig deep. Push the limits. Can you ask more questions? What do you think? Share your comments below.



Caroline Siassios

About Caroline Siassios

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