Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

How do we respond to awkward questions? Do we ignore them and hope they will go away, give a random answer that does not make sense, or try to find the solution to the problem.

Young children can drive us crazy by persistently asking “Why?” especially when parents fail to understand what they are asking, make it too complicated, or just ignore them.  Kipling told the story of the Elephant’s Child asking the question “What does the crocodile have for breakfast” when he was trying to give answers to a child who had “1 million How’s, 2 million Where’s, and 7 million Why’s“.

elephant's child and crocodileAn answer that satisfies a child (e.g. The elephant has a long nose because the crocodile grabbed it and pulled) may appear to be logical but it is a long way from the truth.  (We know “Inheritance of acquired characteristics” isn’t how evolution works.)  So we continue to ask “Why?” until we find an explaination that makes sense of the world.

Asking “Why?” is a useful technique for getting to the root cause of problems (as required by ISO 9001:2015 clause 10.2) and deciding what needs to be done to prevent recurrence.  We need to find out why a product is defective.  If our initial answer is operator error we must ask why the operator made the error and why it was easier for the operator to make an error than to do it right.  5 “Why’s is ususally sufficient to get to the root cause. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys