• Lila Morency

The 5 Whys For Purpose-Driven Companies

“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker, management consultant, has been described as the founder of modern management. In this day and age, we find this quote to be especially relevant for businesses that are trying to navigate these unstable times and to pivot in order to stay up to date and competitive.


Humans are among the most technological beings we know to inhabit this earth. We have access to a plethora of tools and discoveries, endless methods and hacks for everything we can dream of. Yet in all of this complication we have created to make our lives easier, it can be easy to forget to stop and go back to the basics.


What make you decide to be a purpose-driven company?

Asking a simple question can lead you to far greater clarity than charging ahead with the latest discovery. It will allow you to achieve the greatness that you envisioned when you first had the idea and the dream for starting the business.


There is a very simple question that we would like to dive deeper into. It’s a question we hear on a day to day basis but it’s not often that we stop to truly identify the gold nuggets that answering it can lead us to.


That important question is, “Why?”


Last year we came across the Five Whys technique in Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup. This technique was created by one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the inventive industry.


The genius behind this simple framework is Sakichi Toyoda, Japanese industrialist and inventor. Both he and his son, Kiichiro Toyoda, who later established Japan’s largest automotive company Toyota, used this framework to improve the internal production systems of their lucrative businesses.


Eris Ries has brought this technique to the western world and helped implement it in a myriad of businesses. The secret behind this technique is to repeat why five times to drill down to the cause-and-effect relationship, uncovering the true nat

ure of any problem, and how to solve it.


When you ask someone what the problem is, the first answer is rarely the root cause of the actual problem. Asking the five whys inside a company can help you and your team identify the core of the issue instead of getting caught up in blame games, frustration, and recurring problems.


So how do you perform a 5 Whys analysis?

  1. It is necessary to engage the management in the five whys process in the company. For the analysis itself, consider what is the right working group. Also consider bringing in a facilitator for more difficult topics.

  2. Use paper or whiteboard instead of computers.

  3. Write down the problem and make sure that all people understand it.

  4. Distinguish causes from symptoms.

  5. Pay attention to the logic of cause-and-effect relationship.

  6. Make sure that root causes certainly led to the mistake by reversing the sentences created as a result of the analysis with the use of the expression "and therefore".

  7. Try to make answers more precise.

  8. Look for the cause step by step. Don't jump to conclusions.

  9. Base our statements on facts and knowledge.

  10. Assess the process, not people.

  11. Never leave "human error", "worker's inattention", "blame John", etc. as the root cause.

  12. Foster an atmosphere of trust and sincerity.

  13. Ask the question "Why?" until the root cause is determined, i.e. the cause the elimination of which will prevent the error from occurring again.[10]

  14. When you form the answer to the question "Why?" it should be from the customer's point of view.

Five whys. (2022, March 2). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_whys


A note of warning: The 5 Why process is a tool that may uncover some facts about your company that you have been trying to avoid.

When you start implementing this process, make sure you’re ready to get to the bottom of things and start improving the way your company functions. Reaching the root of a technical problem will likely unveil that it started out as a human problem; issues during the training phase, unrealistic expectations, and/or lack of communication within the organization. If problems are not dealt with properly, then any effort to cover up the issue to prevent one from seeing it will be wasted time and energy.


So how can you integrate the 5 whys into your business to more fully step into the title of being “purpose-driven”?


The question “why?” can help you understand the direction you and your team are going in as a business. It can be challenging to make every choice keeping your vision in mind. But going deep into the reasoning behind what you think you want will provide a lot of clarity.


Here’s an example.


Problem Statement: We need to update our website.

1. Why do we think we need a better website?

– Because we want to increase our engagement.


2. Why do we want to increase the engagement?

– Because we’ve seen our sales going down.


3. Why have our sales been going down?

– Because it’s hard for us to ensure that the customers that have bought from us in the past are still coming to us.


4. Why is it hard for us to see if customers are coming back to us?

– Because we’re not sure where to look to find that out.


5. Why are you not sure where to look?

– Because we don’t have anyone on our team that deals with websites or marketing.


Root Cause: The answer to help increase engagement is to improve the marketing. In this instance, changing the website would not create the desired outcome.


This five whys example helped this company understand that they need someone on their team to help them grow their engagement by improving their marketing. If they had just invested their budget in getting their website revamped, then the true lack of engagement problem would have continued to consume their budget.


So maybe your business is in a similar place as the one in the example. Or perhaps you think you want a film. Could it be that you are looking for a rebrand or feel like you need to improve your social media presence?


Here’s another example.


Problem Statement: We need to make more purpose-driven content.

1. Why do we think we need to make more purpose-driven content?

– Because our message isn’t getting out there and we don’t feel we’re making an impact.


2. Why do we feel our message isn’t getting out there?

– Because our sales haven’t been increasing much.


3. Why have our sales been stagnant?

– Because it’s hard for us to bring purpose and create all of the content we need because everyone on the team is overwhelmed with their workload.


4. Why is everyone on the team overwhelmed with their workload?

– Because we don’t have simple systems in place to help us focus on what’s more important.


This example required only 4 whys.


Root Cause: The answer to help this client make more purpose-driven content is to first start by highlighting their priorities and implementing simple systems so their focus goes where it’s most beneficial.


For someone on the team to put their workload to the side in order to churn out more purpose-driven content would not solve the underlying issue of lack of organization within the company.


Clarity and communication are some of the most important keys to a successful business. No matter what the issue is, take a bit of time to ask yourself and your team the five whys. Pouring money and time into a problem to fix it before understanding its root cause will not benefit your company or lead you down the right path of action.


Albert Einstein has a famous quote that we find very relevant here. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." It’s not enough to keep the same marketing strategy and expect different results. And it’s useless to make a film only because all of your competitors are doing that. If you want to create change in the world, you must drill down to the core of why you are doing what you are doing as a purpose-driven company.


At IMPACT. we guide our clients to identify the root of their desires so we can truly solve their problems and help them create the change they want to see.

It’s not enough to have just a few pieces of the puzzle in place in order to see the full picture.

If decisions are made from an impulsive place of confusion and problems are not dealt with properly, then any effort to cover up the issue will be wasted time and energy for everyone. Being purpose-driven is a big title. Let us remember that, to have the biggest impact in the world, purpose must be present behind every process and decision that your company makes.

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