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Bitesize 15: Why?


We have looked at many questions that a business partner can use to get closer to their real business needs. Most, if not all, of these questions though can be summed up under the simple word - why?

Why are you doing that? Why is the business not achieving its targets? Why don’t you do it this way? Why can’t we do it that way? Why do we want to improve customer service?

Sometimes the ‘why’ question sounds like a stupid question but as long as you genuinely want to know the answer never be afraid to ask it.

I once asked why some rework was being carried out on a production line. The answer was that the parts were not to the customers required standard.

Only then did we check the standard again and we found that the customer had actually re-written the specification over a year ago, no longer demanding the re-work.

Organisational ‘memory’ can often prove to be unreliable and this had cost the company millions of pounds in unnecessary labour costs.

The only problem with constantly asking the ‘why’ question is that it could make you very unpopular in the short term.

Many people do not want to have to think too much about why they are doing something. Life seems to be much simpler and more easy-going when they are just left to get on with whatever they are doing.

I firmly believe that most employees, generally, are happy as long as they are kept busy.

They are less interested in being challenged as to why they are doing something.

Of course, senior managers have another reason for not wanting to hear the question ‘why?’ too often.

You might find out they do not know why they are doing it (as so often happens when everyone in the organisation is blindly following models such as the balanced scorecard or EFQM) - they are doing it because they think they have to.

Another reason is that a senior manager might ask for some help with training (to reduce customer complaints) when, in fact, a lack of training is not the root cause (e.g. the root cause is a fundamental design flaw).

Asking ‘why’ forces them to do their own root cause analysis.

This also means they have to take more ownership and accountability for any subsequent solution.

So a simple word such as ‘why’ can often seem to them to be a dangerous and challenging question.

Regardless of the reasons for being careful about how you ask this question just remember one thing - business partners never accept a brief to design a training solution until they are absolutely convinced they know why.

Paul is happy to take questions and comments and can be contacted at:mailto:[email protected]

Earlier articles in this series can be found at:
The Bitesize Business Partners Page


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