What are you doing? Lots of stuff, right?

It’s easy to be seduced by action – doing all the whats of what we’re doing.


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It feels good to be busy. It feels good to do stuff without thinking. To feel wanted. To roll along. To do.

So nice in fact that sometimes we get into things just because we can, or always have, or someone says please.

For one day only, see what happens if you ask yourself and your team, why?

1. It brings the what into focus
2. It defines success
3. We’re likely to be more motivated when we know why it matters
4. It releases creativity – for alternatives whats that get to the why better
5. It creates options and helps prioritise
6. A clear common cause aligns resources
7. Decisions are faster and firmer
8. It can save a lot of work – particularly if there is no why and you can stop, or not start

No getting away with “because I have to” or “you told me to” — to get the benefit you have to go deeper than that. Visit the why-stuff-happened world of root cause analysis to work out why stuff should happen.

The 5 Whys Method.

Legend has it that Sakichi Toyada, founder of Toyota Motor Corporation, invented and systematised the 5 whys method for engineers looking for the seat of a given problem, although anyone who’s been a kid knows that asking a bunch of whys is the way we’ve always learned. You can use his method to determine the future, not just analyse the past. Just ask why (about) five times.

I’m about to drive to Cambridge to attend a conference (the possible action)

  • Why? – I need to connect with some people in our market (first why)
  • Why? – To find some potential pilot sites for our next product (second why)
  • Why? – We like to do live testing before we do any marketing (third why)
  • Why? – We’re obsessed with quality (fourth why)
  • Why? – The golden rule; treat others as you’d like to be treated. We don’t want to sell anything that hasn’t proved its worth in the real world and we know is up to the job (fifth why, root cause)

So going to Cambridge is the tactic that will fulfil some personal goals and further the strategy and values of the company. If the answer to number 2 was, “I always go, they expect me there”, I’d save myself an awfully long drive.

Whenever you need to commit resources, better know why.

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