Problem Solving

How Asking 'Why' 5 Times Can Change Your Life

How Asking 'Why' 5 Times Can Change Your Life
Image credit: BuzzFarmers | Flickr
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Did you ever have a problem that you immediately fixed and somehow more problems just keep arising? You start to say things like, "I guess I'm just having a bad day" or, "I can't catch a break," or even worse -- you give up.

Related: 5 Steps to Handle Any Unforeseen Challenge

If you are constantly running into problems maybe it's because you aren't actually solving the root of that problem. Many times when a problem arises, we jump to the first thought about why that problem is occurring, and then focus on a solution to fix that. This is like putting an adhesive bandage over a hose and expecting it to hold. I don't know about you, but I have yet to find a super-strength version.

Start solving the roots of your problems when they arise by using a popular Kaizen ("continuous improvement" in Japanese) technic. 

Ask 'why' 5 times to get to the root.

1. Why can't I get everything done at work? Because I have so much to do.

2. Why do you have so much to do? Because I am getting pulled away from my priorities for other tasks.

3. Why are you getting pulled away for other tasks? Because I'm the only one who knows how to do it.

4. Why are you the only one who knows how to do it? Because no one else has been trained.

5. Why has no one else been trained? Because we don't have a cross-training program.

See how this transformed the type of solution you would use to fix the problem? 

Related: How to Improve Your Critical Thinking Skills and Make Better Business Decisions

If we stopped at the answer to the second "why," you might have implemented a system to block time where you can't get pulled away. But this won't address the root and would end up creating another problem down the line such as the lack of these other tasks being completed and the company suffering productivity as a result.

If we stopped at the answer to the third "why," you might have started training others on these tasks. But this also won't address the root. While someone would end up being trained on taking these tasks, you will find that another person in the company may start having the same problem down the line. They could also end up having tasks only that person knows how to do. 

Creating a cross-training program will solve the root of the problem for all employees to ensure it doesn't keep reoccurring.

You can use this technic in every aspect of your life. You will find you have more time when focusing on the root of things and will become more efficient as a result. Over time, you may find you can get to the root of the problem in less than five "whys."  For those who adopt this practice in your daily lives, it will become second nature -- you will start questioning everything. 

Whether it's trying to figure out why you struggle finding your keys or figuring out how to find better employees for your company, this technic will change your life.

Related: A Secret to Creative Problem Solving