5 Whys: Can I Get to Dinner on Time?

5 Whys Inspiration

Part of the morning routine of coffee and working through a to-do list for the day, the morning network news is always going in the background. We filter out the fluff and our attention is piqued when a story is of significant value or importance. Recently, our attention was drawn to an author discussing his new book on personal productivity and the 5 Whys. Now, most of these ‘new ideas’ fall flat, but this segment was immediately different. The author immediately talked about how the most organized people get things done and manage effective to-do lists. That wasn’t a major news flash, but he had our attention when he talked about the way to higher levels of productivity was using the 5 Whys. We were immediately hooked.

The Problem of Having a Family Dinner

The author went on describe the problem. How do I get home from work in time to have dinner with my family? He immediately applied the 5 Whys to the problem and started to analyze the issues.

Why #1: Why wasn’t the family able to have dinner together? Because he was consistently late for dinner. The answer was to adjust his schedule accordingly to get him home on time.

Why #2: Why was he late for dinner? Instead of leaving work at 5pm to make it home on time, he stayed until 6pm or later to answer emails. The answer was he needed to deal with email earlier in the work day.

Why#3: Why he wasn’t dealing with emails earlier? He was arriving at work later and immediately went into meetings and didn’t get to emails. The answer was to get into the office earlier and address his ever-growing email box.

Why #4: Why wasn’t he getting to the office earlier? The answer was that the kids took a long time getting ready in the morning. The answer was to get the kids ready in the morning quicker so he can get to the office earlier.

Why#5: Why were the kids delayed in the morning? The kids were delayed in the morning because it took a long time for them to get dressed and ready for the day. The answer was to lay out the kids’ clothes the night before, so in the morning they saved a significant amount of time getting ready. They made the changes, and he was able to start making dinner with the family on time!

A Solution Is Found with 5 Whys

As a Six Sigma professionals, we live, eat and breathe the practice and understand how the principles impact both personal and professional life. Understanding this was a pretty simplistic situation, we were inspired by this author bringing an element of our practice into the mainstream. For those not involved directly with a Six Sigma program or who have an understanding of the practice, the concept of using the 5 Whys is an exciting concept. Maybe as Six Sigma professionals, we should find those opportunities to share some of our practice and how the techniques can easily translate from the business world to the personal side of their lives. It should also shed light to the concept that being more productive and efficient at work will expand our personal life and happiness.

A Bit About the Author

Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhig, is a book offering some secrets to being more productive in life and business.

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter for The New York Times and the author of The Power of Habit. He is a winner of the National Academies of Sciences, National Journalism, and George Polk awards. A graduate of Harvard Business School and Yale College, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

NOTE: This blog is not an endorsement or advertisement of the work by Charles Duhigg.

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