01 February 2016

Don't Forget the Why

"Why" is one of the great questions of all time. 

When we're young, it's often a response to being told to do something--it's time to brush your teeth, do your homework, or don't stay out too late.   

Asking parents for an explanation may or may not get you anywhere. That's a shame because these exchanges can potentially be teachable moments for children and adults.   

Conditioned behavior begins at an early age. For example, not getting answers to simple questions causes curiosity to go away.

That's unfortunate.  

Asking "why" inside corporate cultures can sometimes be a career decision. Employees are often hesitant to seek explanations or clarifications even though their performance depends on clear expectations of a given task. 

What has been learned through poor hiring decisions, business closures, accidents, and loss of life, such as the shuttle Challenger explosion (30th anniversary was 28 January 2016), is that failing to ask the right questions, before not after the fact, is the more significant problem.

In the book The Machine that Changed the World, we hear about Toyota's technique of asking up to "five whys" when something breaks down on the assembly line. Is that approach applicable to the executive suite?

Leaders attempting to introduce change into a business often start with "what" is supposed to happen, not "why." Unfortunately, that approach delays the ability to successfully implement the change, whatever it is. Instead, employees need to know why the latest great idea is being introduced or the corporate system, which they run day-to-day, is being restructured (many times without their input).   


(C) Bredholt & Co.