There are many creative ways to solve business problems. One quality tool that is commonly used is called the “5 Whys”. This is an exercise that involves asking the question “why?” five times to help you quickly drill down to the root cause of a problem. It is tempting to jump to the first conclusion that comes to mind when trying to solve a problem, so it is important to make sure that what is thought to be the root of the problem truly is. Ok, let’s look at this problem and ask the question why 5 times.
Solving Church Issues? Don’t Always Trust Your Gut – Ask Why 5x
Problem: Children’s ministry has to turn away children because there are not enough workers to comply with teacher-to-student ratio requirements.
- Not everyone who was scheduled to work, showed up for their shift.
- When calling the workers who did not show up for their shift a few answered, “I didn’t know I was scheduled.”
- One worker did not receive their monthly schedule in the mail.
- Schedules were mailed and this worker was on the list to go out but still didn’t receive the mail.
- Worker recently moved and didn’t notify the office of an address change.
If you look at the answer to the first ‘why’ and stop there, you may be tempted to lay blame on the worker and jump to the conclusion that the worker is not responsible and is unreliable. But as you dig down into the fourth and fifth time you ask the question, you quickly realize the problem is very different than originally thought.
When problems arise it is only human nature to try to find the culprit and lay blame on someone, but more often than not the person is working in a broken process that limits their ability to perform well.
Let’s look at another example. Let’s say you are getting a lot of complaints about the receptionist. You are told she is unable to answer many of the questions she is asked, and that she continually transfers callers to the wrong person or department. You can discipline the employee or you can try to learn where the breakdown is in the process. Going through the “5 whys” could flush out reasons and possible solutions.
Problem: Complaints about the receptionist not knowing the answer to questions asked.
- The receptionist doesn’t know the answer to questions or gives out wrong information.
- The receptionist manual does not have accurate answers to common questions.
- The receptionist manual is not updated as scheduled.
- Changing information is not given to the receptionist to update the manual.
- The administrative assistant who takes minutes at manager’s meeting does not pass information along to the receptionist.
- (one extra for fun) Administrative assistant was not instructed to do so during a review of her job description.
As you can see from this example, the problem is a training issue and not with the receptionist. This would not have been identified without asking the question at least 5 times. These examples demonstrate that once you separate the person from the problem you can drill down on the causes and fix the process that will ultimately fix the person.
Most employees come to work and want to do a good job, and in order for them to be able to, managers need to make sure that internal work processes are efficient and that they help support employee performance.