What is frequently the first question we ask when faced with a challenge. What is the problem and how can we solve it? Many of us are quite pragmatic and just want to get it solved and move on.
But at a recent Company of Women breakfast, I learned that perhaps this wasn’t the best way to tackle problems. While I was asking the right questions, I was doing so in the wrong order.
Instead of asking what the problem was, I need to go back and ask myself why. Why is it a problem? By probing into the why, I learn more and can generate more solutions on what to do next. The order, explained Karen Kessler, should be why, how and then what.
To demonstrate how this works, we walked through a couple of situations, one where there was an employee that was under-performing. When we walked through our usual way of solving problems, when we asked what – the answer was that the employee was under-performing and after weighing up the odds, it was decided to let the person go.
But when we took a step back and first asked why, to which the answer was that this person’s performance was creating delays in product delivery and impacting morale within the team – the answer became even clearer – he had to go.
While the end result was the same, you could see how when you ask why, you got to the big picture and it became much easier to make and rationalize that tough decision.
It struck me that we maybe need to ask why more often, because when we know our why, it becomes easier to stay on track. Why do we want to explore a certain business avenue? Why do we want to write a book? Why are we procrastinating on getting something done or starting a new program?
I throw this last one in because in asking why we are procrastinating, we can dig deeper on what is holding us back. One answer may well be that we really don’t want to do it, and if that is the case – then don’t. Take it off your to-do list.
I remember years ago being super-hesitant about getting involved in social media. As far as I was concerned the jury was still out on whether this was an effective way to market your business, so I procrastinated on entering this particular arena.
Clearly I changed my mind, but at the time I was making all sorts of excuses – mainly that I didn’t have time. Until you see the merit of taking on something new, or you can get over your fear of stepping out of your comfort zone, nothing happens. Perhaps if I’d asked myself why, I would have stepped off the fence and started earlier
If you are hesitating on a decision, ask the question why. It may lead you to the real reason and then you can move forward or not, but you do so having thought through the implications.