Dean Van Dyke
How to Ask Why
Let's take a trip back in time to when you were a youngster.
Think about how inquisitive and curious you were. When you had a question about something, you asked your mom, dad, sibling, or someone else that might know the answer you were seeking.
Do you remember asking your question and then, when you were not satisfied with their answer you asked, "Why?" They would respond with another answer; however, you still did not feel they answered your question. So...you asked, "Why?"
I am sure they looked at you with exasperation; however, they responded with another answer. However, you being of the curious sort again asked, "Why?" By this time, the expression on their face had the lines in the forehead and crinkled up nose. But, they responded again. Unfortunately, the answer was still not what you were seeking.
So...again you asked, "Why?"
By now, their face had turned red; but, they still responded to you with another answer. Your face would have said it all because here came another..."Why?" They were frustrated beyond belief but they responded with an answer. With that, you turned and briskly went on your way.
You did not realize it at the time that you were using one of the most powerful tools in the world that has resulted in millions of dollars saved, countless hours saved, and immense productivity improvements. A simple, yet effective questioning technique that has transformed businesses all over the world.
The "5 Why's" is a technique that is used to understand the cause-and-effect relationships of an opportunity. The goal is to truly understand what the opportunity is. It may not take 5 Why's to get there. You may get there in three. However, the technique should not be short changed.
This example is a demonstration of how to use the technique of 5 Why's:
You are on your way home and your car sputtered to a stop... (Opportunity statement)
Why did your car sputter to a stop? No power to move the car.
Why was there no power? The engine died.
Why did the engine die? Fuel gauge is on E.
Why is your fuel gauge on E? I didn't buy fuel.
Why didn’t you buy fuel? I thought E meant ENOUGH. (Opportunity)
The goal was to help you realize that you can use this in any personal or professional situation. You do not need a project to get the results. A curious and inquisitive mind is what you need.
The benefits of this technique are:
It is a simple and effective tool.
Helps to identify the true opportunity.
Determine relationships between different opportunities.
A key thing to keep in mind – ensure you have the right people answering the questions. By asking the people closest to the opportunity, you can obtain the most effective answers.
You wouldn't take your car to a body shop when you need a mechanic, would you?
Harken back to your youngster years and let the why's fly!