Gorillas use the 5 Whats not the 5 Whys

“Can someone tell me why I just spent two hours on the phone with a screaming client?”

“They dropped a server rack on their toe and it really hurt?” asked Greg.

I glared at Greg until he went back to studying the dirt under his finger nails. The I turned to Jake, our development manager. “Jake, why can the client only load half their user base into the DB?”

Jake gave a shrug. “No clue, why didn’t QA test that?”

Vinnie jumped forward in his seat, “That’s not even in our test cases, why on earth would we test that.”

The room seemed to pause for a moment and then all eyes slowly turned towards to Tully, our junior product manager. With Bob visiting a potential customer, Tully the product management representative.

An hour later I walked into my office, tossing my coat on the conference table chair. “Poor Tully” I muttered.

“Why?”

I jumped. Turning to look where my coat landed I saw instead Hogarth holding my coat in one hand and looking at me with a questioning gaze.

“Why? Because Tully got torn to pieces in that meeting.” I said.

“Why?”

I blinked at my Gorilla. It wasn’t like him to not know everything. After all wasn’t he just a figment of my imagination? “Because Bob wasn’t there. And Bob is the one who made the requirements that didn’t address the customer’s number one need.”

“Why?”

Now I glared at my gorilla, was there a point to all of this? “So do you have a point with the annoying string of ‘why’?”

Hogarth nodded, “I do. What do you think would be a better way?”

“What?” My brain started spinning, how was this an answer? What did he mean? What was the right answer? Wait, wait, What?

And Hogarth nodded, “Exactly.”

 

Why the 5 Whys should be the 5 Whats.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve almost certainly heard of Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota. He calls it Five Whys. Unless the rock was really heavy, you’ve also no doubt heard Simon Senek’s “Start with Why” TED Talk.

The Five Whys:

5 Whys is an iterative question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships of a problem. The goal is to get to the root cause of a problem, because all too often the first cause is not the true cause. Doctor’s call this “treating the symptoms, not the disease.”

An example the 5 Whys :

Why did our service go down?

  1. Why? – The servers lost power. (first why)
  2. Why? – The backup power supply didn’t work. (second why)
  3. Why? – It couldn’t handle the load. (third why)
  4. Why? – A replacement hasn’t been bought that can meet the power needs. (fourth why)
  5. Why? – The DataCenter budget was frozen last quarter and we haven’t had the money to perform upgrades. (fifth why, a root cause)

Starting with Why 

Simon’s talk is an incredible exploration of how companies can be inspirational and change the world. His Golden Circle places the question “Why” directly in the middle of the circle and What is placed at the edge. As Sinek pounds home, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy how you do it”

The danger of “Why”

“Start with why” is an excellent for a company exploring how they can better market their products. It can help them to better connect with their end customers and provide greater value.

And “why” is completely the wrong word to use when trying to get to the root of a problem.

What makes me say that? Professional coaching has a key concept of using powerful questions. These questions are deigned to help the coach guide the coachee to the answers they need. The coach doesn’t give the answers, the coach doesn’t even guide the answer. The coaches job is to ask the powerful questions that will allow their client to get to the solution. Examples of powerful questions are:

  • What is important about that?
  • What is stopping you?
  • What is the lesson from that?

What you won’t find in powerful questions is “Why”. What is the reason for this?

“Why” questions rests on the popular belief that « to succeed, one should understand how one has failed ». In other words, to learn how to swim, one must carefully analyze how one has almost drowned. In effect, why questions only let clients meander within their same-old limited past frame of reference. A good coaching process needs to gently lead the client out of their box.” (quoted from www.metasysteme-coaching.eu)

The question “why” carries a lot more emotional content than it’s cousin “what”. When you ask someone “Why didn’t you take out the trash” you are essentially putting them on the defensive and laying blame. Even saying “why is the trash still here?” creates an adversarial space.

This is “Why” is not used in coaching. You don’t want the client to get defensive, or wrapped up in the “why” of the problem you want to ask them “what” they need to do to get out of the problem.

Why 5 What’s is better

You see, Toyoda’s 5 Whys could get to the root cause, but all too often I find they side tracked by the personal agendas, defensiveness and the tragic corporate blame game circle. The 5 Whys can so easily go wrong, let’s look at the example above again, this time with real people involved.

Why did our service go down?

  1. Why? – Because we lost power. (umm duh)
  2. Why? – Bob hasn’t replaced the damn UPS yet, I’ve been on him for weeks. (the buck is passed)
  3. Why? – Don’t look at me, I’ve been trying to get the UPS replaced for weeks, finance won’t approve the PO. (the buck passes again)
  4. Why? – Unless sales starts signing up more customers, we won’t be approving a lot more POs. We’re broke.

We didn’t even get to the 5th why at this point and totally missed that the UPS isn’t broken, just can’t handle the load, so you can’t even explore how to make what you have now work for you.

Let’s try with What.

What caused the service to go down?

  1. What? – We lost power to the core servers and the UPS didn’t work
  2. What happened to our UPS- It can’t handle the load we have.
  3. What are we doing about it?- Well we’re trying to get a new one, only budgets are frozen right now.
  4. What else could we do? We could try putting just half the servers on the UPS. If we lost power we wouldn’t be able to handle a full login load, but we’d be partially up at least.
  5. What do we need to start doing that? – Give us the okay and we’ll have it done tonight.

Asking “What” is about creates an environment of clearer answers. If you ask “What is the speed of light” you get a very specific answer of 299 792 458 m / s. If you ask “why do people fight?” you could fill a Google datacenter with the results. Not a fair comparison? You’re right, it’s not. “Why” is used when the answer isn’t as clear or there are more than one answer.

So let’s try and experiment. What would happen if we used the 5 Whats instead of the 5 Whys?

Gorilla 911 Career Emergeny

“The company no longer has need of your services”

At least I think that’s what they said, can’t be too sure over the roaring sound in my ears. Still the very proper manager, sitting next to the properly sad looking HR person was a pretty dead giveaway. One of those things you know is coming the minute you walk into the room. 

I was out of a job… My brain tried to process  this as I walked in a daze back to my office. The security guard was keeping a respectful distance, but I could feel her presence as much as I felt the lack of weight of the badge no longer hanging from my belt.

Turning the corner I could see movement in my office. The company had already sent movers to clear out my office? Why were they wearing Day-Glo safety vests? What in the world did ECT mean? And most important why were the two figures gorillas?!?

I recognized the first gorilla immediately, despite the neon yellow vest. It was Hogarth, my personal gorilla (like Harvey the Rabbit, only mine is an 800 pound gorilla). Hogarth had his hairy fingers on my cell phone and was consulting a wrist watch like he was taking my phones pulse. The other gorilla was a bit light in color, kind of a deep grey instead of the charcoal black of Hogarth. This gorilla had a stethoscope to the screen of my computer.

The greyish gorilla turned to Hogarth and said “Linkedin profile is offline, should we start CPR.” As soon as he spoke I recognized him. Stanley? What was my old friend’s gorilla doing here?

Hogarth interrupted my thoughts. “Patient’s contacts are thready and non-engaged. I agree, we need to start immediate Career Panic Reset, get the crash cart.

I opened my mouth to speak but before a single word escaped a high pitched tone filled the room. Hogarth turned to Stanley and spoke in a rushed tone. “Career is flat lining, I’m going to need 20cc of social network stat and we better start an IV drip of phone calls.” Stanley made busy inside a garish carpet bag while Hogarth consulted a clipboard with a familiar looking document on it.

“Hey, is that my resume?”

Hogarth looked up, still speaking the Stanley. “It’s worse than we thought, no resume update since 2010. CPR may not work, get me a shot of adrenaline.”

“Hogaaaarth, I’m not dead!” I shouted.

Hogarth looked me up with what could only be described as an incredulous stare, “of course you’re not. If you were dead no one would have called the Emergency Career Technicians and we wouldn’t have to worry about the sorry state your new job readiness is.”

“What? This is not a project. I’ve been laid off. Of course I’m not ready to be laid off!”

Hogarth gave a deep sigh and looked at me with huge, sad eyes.  “No, you’re not. But you should be…”

Sigh… I can’t really argue with him on that.

Are you ready for a career emergency?

If it hasn’t happened to you, odds are high that in your life you will be laid off (or even fired) once in your career. Odds are pretty much equally high it will be more than once if you work in any of the volatile industries like high tech, automotive, manufacturing, health care, BioTech, construction… (You know what? Maybe I should be listing the safe industries, the list is a lot shorter). All too often the layoff is something you have absolutely no effect over. If an entire division is being eliminated, you could be the next Steve Jobs and you’ll still be getting a package like everyone else.

So what can you do? Sure it’s 911 time (The number you call in the United States when there is an emergency), that doesn’t mean it’s time to panic. Even if you’ve been caught totally flat footed, you can still take control right away and do some simple things fast to put the fires out and rebuild. Better yet, start doing all this stuff now. Only your actions can develop career life insurance.

A Disclaimer on Advice: Old readers know that I have never made any pretense that the advice I give is whole cloth. While I have the occasional gem of an idea, more often than not even those are already good ideas more learned people than I have taught or written on. More often the advice I give is just distilled down for easy consumption. I like to think of Hogarth and I as the gateway to a better way of doing things. We make it easy to find and learn how to be a better worker, manager, team member, program manager, manager.

 Online Presence Emergency Makeover:

Welcome to the 21st Century! It doesn’t matter if you have created an online presence, you have one. The question is, “are you in control of it, or is it in control of you?”.  Even if you work directly with your personal network (You have one, right? No? Read the next bullet then) your online presence will still be a factor in your being hired.

  • Linkedin: Dead simple, have one. If you don’t have it, create it now and start reaching out to colleagues. One of the first places recruiters and hiring managers go now is to Linkedin. People you meet professional at work or at professional events (meetups, conferences, etc.) will look you up here. A sizable number of companies are using LI as their primary recruiting tool and pool of candidates.
    • If you send an invite, always personalize. It doesn’t take much effort and you are creating a personal connection view people in LI bother with.
    • Full profile, including the photo (see below).
    • Your Linkedin isn’t your resume, don’t just copy your resume. Instead use LI to tell more of a story. Make them want to know more about you.
    • Setup Pulse- It’s a way to have automatic subjects to talk to people about.
  • Social Networks: Linkedin is a must, see above. After that it’s all optional. However there are guidelines.
    • A Presence is Good: Especially is you work in anything to do with technology, bio, pharm or medical having a strong online presence shows that you are part of this century. I know, I know, the Apollo program put men on the moon without email, why do I need a Google+ account? Because perception is everything. That doesn’t mean you have to hang our life on the line.
    • Public Profile: Linkedin is public, so be comfortable with anything there being seen by a potential employer. Doesn’t mean you have to be a wilting violet and have not opinions. Just be comfortable with it and stay away from national or global controversial topics.
    • Private Profile: Facebook, Instagram, and Pintrest are examples of private networks. These are places where you connect and communicate with friends and family. These are the places you setup your profile as private. It’s no employers business what you do on your weekends, but if you don’t make it private, they will know. Just remember your profile picture is ALWAYs public, so make sure it’s something you’re okay with a potential employer seeing. A picture of you in shorts and sunglasses is fine. You chugging a beer, not so much.
  • Own your Google: Go to Google and type “Your Name” in quotes. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Done? Okay, good. If you don’t either own or are 100% comfortable with the first two pages of a Google search on your name then you need to fix it. This is not hard, you don’t need to pay someone to do it and you don’t need to be a tech expert. Now this can be harder if you have a common name, but remember it doesn’t have to be all you, you just have to be happy with the search results. If you have the same name as a famous quarterback and he’s getting good press, awesome. If, like a colleague of mine, you have the same name as an IRA terrorist from the last century, you need to work a little harder to control the google search on your name.

Some quick tips are:

    • Social Networks: Even if you don’t use them and keep them locked down, having an account on the regular social networks is going to help. I have accounts on Google+, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, that’s four Google searches right there or almost half a search page. Just follow the advice from above.
    • Share Linkedin pulse stories: You’ve got the account. Now set up your preferences on Pulse and at least twice a week share an article you read there.
    • Comment on publicly visible blogs and news articles: Google searches on comments so if you use your name when you post, they will show up in your search index.
    • Start a blog: This can be a little more time intensive as you need to commit to updating it. That said, barrier to entry is easy these days. Even a Tumblr or  Instagram account can work well. Posting wise sayings from other people can be enough to count.
  • Own your image: Just like you need to own your Google, you need to be happy with the images associated with your name. This is mostly done by controlling your online networks (see above), here are just some focused reminders.
    • Make it easy: Check out my Linkedin profile. My profile image is less than a year old. Sure it shows the gray in my beard, but do a Google search on me and you’re bound to find a picture of me anyway. So the first advice is to make it easy for hiring managers to find out what you look like. If you don’t, then either they’ll go looking or they will assume you have something to hide. Does this suck? Sure. Doesn’t it make it easier for managers to discriminate on <insert Demographic>? Sure. And there is nothing you can do to stop that. You need to use your network to get past these issues, not hide your face since they’ll see it eventually.
    • Keep your private photos private: This goes back to your private networks, but needs to be stressed. Make sure when you post photos online that you keep them private. You don’t want that picture of you at a Christmas party with a martini and a glazed expression being the first thing a potential hiring manager sees.

Manager Tools: Interview Podcast Series, Resume Workbook, Failures Chapter 3: Career Crisis.

Manager Tools has been one of my go to resources since 2009. MT has won The PodCast Awards‘ Best Business podcast 5 of the 8 years the award has existed and in 2008 won People’s Choice (in the rarified company of “MuggleCast” and ESPN Fantasy Football”). With 25 years of proven management consulting just in the lead founder, the free podcasts, premium products and conferences are worth their weight in gold. I personally have used MT and CT products and casts to get my last two jobs as well as be highly successful in those jobs.

In this case three key tools will be of use to you:

  • Resume Workbook: $29.95 download with an hour long how to video. Learn to make resumes in an effective and proven way, not the way recruiters with a year’s experience advise you to use.
  • Interview Podcast Series: I believe it’s $199 right now, but it is absolutely worth the price. I’ve used the Manager Tools interview method to get my last two jobs. It works.
  • Failure Chapter 3: Career Crisis – A two part podcast on their Career Tools cast, it came out in January of 2015 (the month before this blog). It’s a great place to start on what you should do Right Now. To sum it up…
    • Get on the phone the minute you are out of the office. Just start calling the people you can think of right away. But for gorilla’s sake, start with your spouse/partner if you have one.
    • Make a list of everyone you know (not just who is in your Linkedin) and start contacting them. The people with a good relationship, call, everyone else, email.
    • Take control of your budget. If you don’t have six months of savings, start figuring out what you don’t need so you can make it to the next job. Six month job searches are pretty common these days.

Wrap up:

This isn’t just good advice for a career in crisis. If you practice preventive medicine you won’t need the ECT to use cardiac paddles on your career.

Best,

Joel and Hogarth