Why Should You Ask Your Process “Why?”

Ask your process why to get to the root of problems, save exploration time, and save money

Many four year olds know the value of asking, “Why?” However, their asking tends to border on tedium that drives many of us to eventually, and assertively, reply, “Because I said so!”
Believe it or not, this tactic is still valuable and can be applied to a business process (although in the business realm you may get the four-year-old-reply’s close cousin, “Because we’ve always done it that way!”).

Obviously that response isn’t good enough, so you’ll need to investigate what’s really going on when this retort is offered up. To do this, let’s start by getting a better understanding of the benefits of using this tactic and then apply it to a specific scenario.

Why the “Why’s?”

In order to justify poking at a business process with “whys,” the assumption is that there is a problem somewhere in the process that needs to be fixed. Some of the benefits of a Q&A between you and your process are:

Asking “whys” will help you determine the root cause, or causes, of the problem.

If there are multiple root causes identified, drilling down with the “why” questioning tactic can ultimately reveal relationships between these causes and highlight where gaps may be in the process.

Asking questions is very basic and can serve up next steps when asking business process practitioners.

The “why” questioning tactic does not require data or statistical analysis, just a non-biased facilitator.

Now that we understand why, we should be asking “Why?” Let’s see how to put this tactic into practice by applying it to a business process.

How to apply the “Why’s”

In this example, the problem is that a particular form that was recently automated is not flowing through the new business process within the anticipated timeframe, resulting in a negative downstream impact on overall process throughput.

We asked:
Q: Why aren’t these particular forms getting through the process within the expected timeframe?
A. Because they keep getting held up at certain approval levels.
Q: Why?
A: If an approver is out, the form can sit in their inbox for days.
Q: Why?
A: The form needs a decision by that approver before it can proceed.
Q: Why?
A: The process doesn’t have the flexibility to bypass that approver.
Q: Why?
A: Because that’s how the online form’s approval flow was designed.

In this scenario, 5 levels of “whys” were what it took to find out that the form’s automated approval flow needs a second look. With the root cause identified, business owners can investigate and dive deeper into possible solutions.

The first step toward resolution is to identify that there is a problem, but it’s not always easy to understand the root of a problem once it’s been identified. For smaller, less complex problems, asking “Why?” can save valuable time and money, not to mention get you on the road to resolution faster than you might think.

So why does asking questions of your business process really help? Because I said so.

Looking for even more about Process Redesign & Optimization?

Check out our Product Development Process whitepaper. It’s so much more than product! Apply the guidelines to any process initiative and set yourself up for success.

You can also click here to read more of our blogs.