the most important question in life. Little tiny children show us
that this is so. Right after learning to say mummy and daddy, every
child in every culture starts asking "why?" It's as natural
as breathing and eating. Who do you suppose taught the child to ask "why?" Parents
didn't, that's for sure. There is the constant "why?" "why? "why?",
culminating with the ultimate parental insight "Because that's
just the way it is!" What mom has leaned over the crib and cooed
to the child "Can you say why? That's it-why". Frankly,
I think it's God's sense of humour. God told them, "As soon
as you can after you're born start asking 'why?"- drives 'em
There are two major roles for the question "why?" in
The first is to get to the truth. One reason some things don't
change is because we don't start with the truth and we end up
trying to change symptoms. It's
only the truth that will set you free. Here's my theory: most of us stop two "whys?" short
of the truth. Try it out. At your next meeting ask the group a question like "What's
the one thing that's holding us back from reaching our potential?" The
group will give you it's best shot with an analysis like, "We don't have
a clear direction," or "We just don't communicate." Even the
most honest group is likely to be two whys short of the real issue-the truth.
Now ask your first "why?" in response to their comment and let them
answer. Ask your second "why?" in response to that and let them answer
again. Unless the group was very superficial in the first place you should
now have identified the core issue that must be talked through.
The second role for "why?" is to determine what your organization
is trying to accomplish. Again, most stop two whys short of finding real vision,
a richly imagined future. This is why many mission statements are so boring.
Try this out too. Take your current mission/vision statement and ask "why?" two
more times and you'll end up at what I call the "Grand Why" of your
corporate existence. For example, "Our mission is to be the number one
preferred supplier in our chosen marketplace." No kidding. Come on, we
can do much better than that. Two more why's and we've got it.
Elevate and revere the question "why?" Encourage everyone at every
level to ask it. "Why" is the door to quality, to creative problem
solving and to setting the organization's sights on what it is really meant
The following quotation must
be printed at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation."
Ian Percy is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.
Ian Percy is an international
speaker and consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com