As a parent the why questions from our children are always the hardest to answer. Turning the tables, using the why question to solve problems in our every day and work life is similarly effective.
Thanks to Sakichi Toyoda, the famous Japanese inventor and industrialist who founded the Toyota Motor Corporation, the “5 Why’s” is now an accepted management technique. When a problem occurred, Toyoda asked “why” five times to drill down and determine the source of the problem and then put into place a process to prevent the problem from recurring. It remains such a simple but effective technique to solve simple or moderately difficult problems or improve processes.
A simple example of the “5 Whys” in action follows:
Our client is unhappy
1. Why is our client unhappy?
Our client is unhappy because no one responded to her request for help sent to our website’s help section.
2. Why didn’t anyone respond to her request for help?
No one responded to her request for help because Julie who usually responds to these requests is on holiday.
3. Why isn’t there a back up to ensure that such requests are responded to when Julie goes on holiday?
There is a backup – Angela.
4. Why didn’t Angela answer the client’s request?
Angela left the company last month.
5. Why hasn’t a replacement been appointed to ensure all website requests are attended to?
We don’t have a process that helps us with that.
The “5 Why’s” aren’t about apportioning blame. In the above example the issue was neither Julie’s or Angela’s fault, it is more about looking for flawed processes, not people, and then identifying an effective way to ensure the problem doesn’t surface again. The above process needs to be changed to ensure there is always a backup, so potentially allocated to a position not a person with ample backup.
When you are next faced with a problem try asking why until you feel confident that you have identified the root cause and can go no further. After each question of why you need to feel confident that the answer received is a valid one and then ask another ‘why’ until an appropriate counter-measure or solution becomes evident.
If you’re not sure whether you have uncovered the real root cause you may need to use a more indepth technique but the “5 Whys” is always a useful starting point and will still give you useful insights.
Now, lets try the “5 Why’s” concept with our 16 year old son.
1. Why haven’t you done your homework!?
Contact us to learn more about mental toughness workshops and other strategies to solve problems.