The most valuable question (or your best weapon) in business process improvement work is asking “why?”
- Why does a delay exist?
- Why can’t you eliminate this activity – what value does it add to the customer?
- Why do you collect the information?
- Why do you want to start doing….e.g., weekly audits, status reports, or quarterly reviews?
- Why have you identified those specific goals?
- Why can’t you change the process?
- Why do you want to change the process?
- Why are there so many levels of approval?
- Why can’t managers do their own hiring?
- Why do you have the current metrics?
Even when employees or clients give you an answer to a question, you can ask “why” as a follow-up question to further fine-tune the process. I usually ask WHY three times. When a manager tells you that they want to start doing something new, ask why. When a client shares their goals, ask why they have those goals. This further probing will help you to understand the real source of a comment. Sometimes the answer simply supports the status quo; sometimes it is revolutionary.