How Asking 'Why' 5 Times Can Change Your Life

Getting to the root of the problem is the key to finding the real solution.

learn more about Michelle MacDonald

By Michelle MacDonald

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

Michelle MacDonald

Founder & CEO, Sweet Note Bagels

Michelle MacDonald, is the founder of Sweet Note, a gluten-free bagel manufacturer. She founded her company at the age of 27 after seeing her grandfather and sister struggle after being diagnosed with Celiac disease. MacDonald believes that with passion, persistence and lots of red lipstick, anything is possible.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Everyone Wants to Get Close to Their Favorite Artist. Here's the Technology Making It a Reality — But Better.
The Highest-Paid, Highest-Profile People in Every Field Know This Communication Strategy
After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.
Having Trouble Speaking Up in Meetings? Try This Strategy.
He Names Brands for Amazon, Meta and Forever 21, and Says This Is the Big Blank Space in the Naming Game

How to Detect a Liar in Seconds Using Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to understand if someone is not honest with you. The following signs do not even require words and are all nonverbal queues.

Business News

American Airlines Sued After Teen Dies of Heart Attack Onboard Flight to Miami

Kevin Greenridge was traveling from Honduras to Miami on June 4, 2022, on AA Flight 614 when he went into cardiac arrest and became unconscious mid-flight.

Business News

These Are the Most and Least Affordable Places to Retire in The U.S.

The Northeast and West Coast are the least affordable, while areas in the Mountain State region tend to be ideal for retirees on a budget.

Business News

Jake Paul and Lindsay Lohan Fined $400,000 for 'Illegally Touting' Crypto

The SEC just disclosed that eight celebrities agreed to a massive settlement without admitting guilt.


After Early Rejection From Publishers, This Author Self-Published Her Book and Sold More Than 500,000 Copies. Here's How She Did It.

Author Karen Inglis breaks down the strategies and tactics you need to generate awareness and sales for your self-published book.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.