We could learn a lot from children. Have you ever encountered a child with a question? You give them a respectable answer, yet they relentlessly continue to ask “But, why?” If your response is not satisfactory, they will continue to ask “But, why?” over and over (and over). You generally continue to elaborate until you reach “because that’s the way it is” or my mom’s personal favorite “because I said so.” This may work on a personal level, but it is simply not good enough for business. In business you should regularly evaluate and challenge your existing operations. You must know WHY you are doing things the way that you are doing them.
You may now be thinking, “But, why?” This is important for several reasons:
1. Solve the RIGHT problem.
Entertaining the “why?” question will force you to identify and resolve the real issue. What is the problem that you are trying to solve? Why? What is the desired outcome? Why? If you want to find the best solution to your problem, it is best to ask these questions as if it’s the first time that you were presented with the problem. In focusing on the real issues vs. the other stuff, you may find a more efficient method for solving the problem. Also, this line of questioning will reveal baggage that is attached to your current procedures. Baggage includes any process or rule that is unrelated to the ‘real problem’. Baggage is generally the result of unrelated factors, such as procedures that are heavily influenced by corporate culture, vendor preferences, technical limitations and employee skillset(s). While some of these factors are important to consider in defining a solution, they are often dynamic and will change over time, as your organization grows and as decision makers come and go. Surprisingly, many organizations will grow an outdated or ineffective system because a specific employee was resistant to change and unable to adapt. At some point, no one remembers why the process even exists. Stay aware of the real issue, so that you are able to define the best solution.
2. Deal with REAL consequences.
If you know the real problem, you can distinguish between the consequences for not solving the problem versus the consequence for not doing things the way “it has always been done”. You want to avoid wasting time and energy creating and enforcing rules that have little or nothing to do with the ‘real issue’.
3. Avoid continuing down a dead end road.
At some point, you will need to stop the madness. You’ll either waste all of your resources supporting an outdated procedure or you will be forced to update your thinking by external factors. Make a U-Turn sooner rather than later. It’s more effective, long term, to spend time on eliminating outdated procedures than it is to continue down that path. Also, remember that starting over is a reasonable consideration. There are times when it’s necessary to stop analyzing bloated systems and start from where you are today.
4. Operate faster, better, smarter, and cheaper by eliminating the unnecessary.
Each unnecessary procedure adds a layer of complexity that costs you money and time. Ask yourself, Is this necessary? Why? In the short-term, it may seem that redefining a process is requires more effort than continuing to do things the way they have “always been done”. This is likely true, short term. However, in the long-term you lose. There’s a snowball effect to attaching unnecessary baggage onto your systems and procedures. At some point, you lose sight of the real goal. As technology evolves, the longer you continue to waste your resources on the unnecessary, the more you rob your organization of performing at its highest level of effectiveness.
Revisit your procedures. Ask yourself “Why?” Why are we following this procedure? Why do we need this? Is it a real requirement? Who decided that it was a requirement? Why? What are the consequences? As you respond to each question, ask the follow-up question, “But, Why?” Through this discovery you will challenge yourself to identify the outdated thinking and antiquated processes that are limiting your organizations effectiveness.