Why?Why?Why... I don't know.

When an employee approaches you with a problem, what is your first reaction? Do you question how it happened and who caused the problem? There is a tendency to blame individuals for problems that occur in the workplace, however 99% of the time it is a process failure and not a result of poor performance. In fact, if we react on our rush to point the finger, blame, and possibly discipline the person, we are missing out on the greatest opportunity to improve our efficiency, safety, and productivity. To really know what is at the root of the problem you should exercise the practice of Why? Why? Why? I don’t know (WWWIDK).

WWWIDK is also referred to by some as Why, Why, Why, Because (WWWB). It is a process in which you, as the designated problem solver, ask the question “Why?” over and over and over until you reach a point where the response is “I don’t know” or “because”. When you get to the “I don’t know” or “because”, the root of the problem is near by.

A company that I worked with had received multiple complaints from customers stating they received the wrong item. The customer would order a left and would receive a right. To resolve the issue the company created different colored packaging for lefts and rights. For years, the process worked very well. Then, customer complaints again started rolling in. This time, management was looking for someone to blame because the loss was quite large. As a result, management ended up transitioning a few people out of the department and one person was terminated. To their dismay the complaints continued. Seeking answers, they asked that I look into it and when I did, I used the WWWIDK method.

After questioning every possibility, every process, and every person my “I don’t know” came from one individual that was responsible for providing the packaging to the staff preparing shipments. In asking additional questions of this individual, we concluded that the colored packaging had worked well for years because all of the individuals performing packaging duties were not color blind. This individual was color blind and because he came in years after the process changed and the colored packaging was the “norm”, he never even knew that the packaging was color coded. In the end, some additional improvements were made to the packaging and thus far, has resulted in zero complaints.

This is example is only one of many, however it quickly shows how the WWWIDK method gets down to the real problem instead of focusing on blame or band-aid approaches to repairing processes. Many companies learn as they go and when the opportunity to make an improvement arises out of a problem, owners should be looking deep within the organizational processes to completely resolve the problem instead of patching it over. Approaching problem solving in this manner will provide long term solutions and better quality of service.


April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.

Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.

Want to keep up to date with all the newest information and tips? Make sure you're a subscriber to our weekly newsletter.

Share or Connect with us!

Twitter | Google+ | Facebook | LinkedIn

Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square