The Five Why’s
Just because something is simple, doesn’t make it easy.
Any of us who have raised children know that stage they go through as they start to question the world (and us). ‘Why, daddy?’….’Well, that’s because…’…’But why that, daddy?’… and so on.
After five iterations or so you pretty soon get from ‘Why can’t I have an ice cream?’ to ‘Why have humans evolved to be the dominant species on the planet?’
This is a good exercise for exploring the underlying dynamics of any situation, and opening up new perspectives. It works well in coaching sessions but also in action learning sets, or team meetings that are trying to identify the root cause of a problem. Of course, there are more formal, more structured tools for this such as herringbone analysis for situations where a comprehensive coverage of causes is needed, but the Five Why’s is a really useful ‘quick ‘n dirty’ tool for getting our thinking mobilised.
This is a really neat little 2-minute exercise that helps us step aside from routine and habit. It reminds us how easy it is to compress our time and space for reflective thinking by reacting habitually to everyday work pressures.
As yourself a question – how in control are you of the communications that flow across your desk? Out of habit, do you routinely look at every e-mail as it arrives in your Inbox? How easy is it for you to sit at your workspace and just think? Do you ever give in to the temptation to work on your computer with your microphone on mute when you participate in conference calls? When are you ever out of communication reach from your organisation? Have you ever overheard people holding conversations on their mobile in a rest room cubicle?
Some recent research has shown that social media provokes the same withdrawal symptoms as nicotine when we stop using it. In other words, we become habituated to getting a regular fix of contact – we have to check our Inbox, our voice messages, or our Facebook page to see if anything has changed.
So, try this: sit at your desk in front of your computer and time yourself – how easy is it to sit still for two minutes without touching your keyboard?
When you have tried this, do it again, but this time decide upon a question to contemplate as you conduct the exercise. It might be something simple (the agenda for next week’s team meeting) or something big (what should our strategy be). If you find some interesting ideas floating up, then try it regularly and maybe extend it to four minutes. No more – this is a short sharp exercise to create some space in a busy day. Other, longer contemplation exercises may be of use for those times when you can set aside longer periods of time.
You can go to this web page www.donothingfor2minutes.com which will keep track of how well you perform the simple task of sitting still in front of your keyboard for 2 minutes.