Updated: Dec 13, 2022
When a toddler incessantly asks, “Why?”, it can get annoying. But maybe they’re just trying to teach you something. The next time you have a complex problem, ask yourself “why?” five times to get at the root of it.
In my experience, it is way too easy to focus on the surface-level problems we have in our work. For example, you might ask yourself, “Why am I so busy?” and the answer is “Because I work too much.” Except, your problems usually go a little deeper than that. By asking “why?” to get down a few levels in your thinking, you can target root problems. So let’s use the working-too-much example and have some fun with it:
Why can’t I get everything done at work? Because I have so much to do.
Why do you have so much to do? Because I am getting pulled away from my priorities for other tasks.
Why are you getting pulled away for other tasks? Because I’m the only one who knows how to do it.
Why are you the only one who knows how to do it? Because no one else has been trained.
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?
This concept can apply to issues or problems that are large, small, complex or easy. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily make the solutions simpler (starting a cross-training program is harder than just working more), but it can help you stop spinning your wheels on solutions that don’t work.