To truly understand a process or a problem, you need to get down to the root cause. This is an important concept from Six Sigma and Business Process Improvement. Ask why at least five times to try and understand something to its deepest level. This method can lead to some interesting findings and some easily implemented solutions. For example:
Problem: A hotel guest’s bags were never delivered to their room:
Why?: The Bellman was not aware the guests were in their room.
Why?: The Bellman never received the bell tag for that guest.
Why?: The Front Desk agent never brought the bell tag to the bell desk.
Why?: The Front Desk agent did not have time to walk away from their station.
Why?: There was a line, and the other guests needed to be checked in.
Solution: Install cardholders at each Front Desk station to place the bell tag. These brightly colored tags can be seen from the Bell Desk so the Bellman or Bell Captain will know that the guests are going to their room.
This is an example of blaming the process, not the person. It would be easy to blame the Bell Captain when the bags were not delivered, but that would not solve the problem for the future.
Let’s take this method to the next level and see if we can use it to resolve a conflict between people. We frequently need to jump in and resolve a problem between people, and to resolve a conflict you need to know why the conflict was happening in the first place. I want you to get into the practice of finding the “Why?” of every conflict that you see. This “why?” can be simple, and you do not always need to aks 5 times, but it is important to ask yourself if you have dug down deep enough and really found the root of the problem.
When using this method for conflict resolution, the one word question of “Why?” is no longer acceptable, or else you will sound like a 5-year-old. Ask leading questions with the internal mantra of “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?”. I think you may be surprised by what you can find.