If you have young children, you know their favorite word is Why. I probably hear Why at least 20-50 times per day. Depending on the activity, I never get annoyed as my son investigates something that interests him. The topics range from Egyptians, Romans, Knights, Airplanes, Rockets, and anything else that pops up during his learning.
Actually, Why is a compelling word. If appropriately used can uncover so many useful insights into what you are discussing. However, Why can be quickly overused, which can annoy people, so a delicate balance is needed.
Investigating with Why
It is valuable to get everyone speaking about the subject by asking questions to spark information sharing. The goal is to open up a discussion and keep names or use the word you out of the Why questions. Instead, focus on the subject at hand.
I have used Why to investigate customer projects. For example:
- Why was XX technology chosen?
- Why are the applications installed on-prem versus cloud?
- Why does X take longer than Y?
Using names or "you" in Why questions applies additional pressure to the person answering. I've experienced people becoming defensive rather quickly when questioning decisions or thought processes. Therefore, keep the Why focused on the subject matter rather than the person helps unlock insights.
Why is used for learning
It doesn't matter if you are asking someone Why speaking out loud or internally. The goal is to learn, uncover a thought process, and understand. We are not trying to change something but rather gather the information to either learn or make a decision.
Start with Why
Before we go further, start practicing using Why. If you have children mimic their Why questions to further understand how something works, is built a certain way, or the outcome of an event. Start with Why next time you want to learn and open up a discussion.