Investigating Why
Business & Leadership Behaviors Project Management Thoughts Random Thoughts

Revisiting Your Why

When was the last time you reviewed a Why?  You probably do it all the time.

  • Why did I buy this?
  • Why didn’t I take that other way home?
  • Why did I walk into this room?

Usually, the answer pops into our heads fairly quickly, and we move forward.

Or the lesson we were supposed to have learned the last time we were in this situation is now reinforced (i.e. don’t buy this brand again).

The Process Whys

There are areas in your business you should definitely examine—ideally at regular intervals. I’m talking about your Business Processes.

No one wants to define them, to begin with, so reviewing them is about as much fun as a root canal.

But it must be done.

We run into this all the time when we’re talking to teams about bringing automation to their organizations.

A team may have contacted us for a variety of reasons:

  • they’ve changed their back-end systems or ERP,
  • they are interested in a certain technology,
  • management is encouraging increased automation,
  • their current way of doing things isn’t working anymore, etc.

The first thing we usually ask about is the Why.  Typically, the Why that they lead with—whether they realize it or not—isn’t the whole story.

It’s critical to get the whole story.  If you don’t, it’s highly unlikely the customer will be happy with anything you deliver.

Your solution – and the users it’s supposed to be helping – will be set up to fail.

It’s Worth the Pain

If you’re in the market for a new solution (of any kind really), take the time to step back and dig into the process behind it.  Walk through what’s being done now and continually ask Why through every step.  (I discuss this process in a little more detail here.)

You will likely find activities that are no longer necessary, some that should be reordered, some that were never documented (that elusive “tribal knowledge”), some that need additional training, and others that are absolutely critical.

Yes, it is time-consuming, and you will likely have to chase a few people down to get all of the facts – especially if this hasn’t been done for a given process for a very long time (or ever).

But it is worth it.

Because it’s highly unlikely any automated solution or technology will succeed if the process behind it is flawed.


Asking some Whys will ensure you get the most out of your solution investments. A little time invested upfront will reap significant benefits in the future.