Why You Should Ask Your Process, “Why?”

By: Clu Monroe, Senior Consultant

As a child, you probably weren’t afraid to express curiosity – specifically, by responding to orders from your parents with a simple, yet compelling, “Why?” This innocent question would often be met with the frustrated reply, “Because I said so!” As an adult, asking “Why?” can often get to the root of problems and may be the perfect way to initiate a dialogue about changing up old standards and processes within the organization.

To better understand how this works, let’s start by looking at the benefits of using this tactic and then applying 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. The benefits of a question and answer session between you and your process are:

• Asking “why” will help you determine the root cause, or causes, of the problem and uncover any missed or over looked steps in the process.

• 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.

• 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 a 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, five levels of “whys” are what it took to find out that the form’s automated approval flow needs to be reviewed. With the root cause identified, business owners can investigate and dive deeper into possible solutions.

Asking your process “Why?” can help you identify and gain insight into what the problems are so that you can resolve issues and evolve your process as necessary.


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