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Why Bother?

How often do you take time to question the reasonableness, or idiocy, of what’s being asked of you and your team?  When’s the last time you made a substantially complete inventory of all the things your team does and ask, “why?” 

  • Why on earth do we do this? 
  • Why are you asking me for this?
  • Why is this a priority?
  • Why does this matter to our people?
  • Why isn’t there someone else who can do this?
  • Why does this have to be done so often?
  • Why oh Why oh Why?

Unless you have access to unlimited resources, part of providing exceptional customer service is making sure your team is focused on the right things.  Asking ‘why’ doesn’t mean you’re being obstinate, or insubordinate, or even difficult.  If done effectively, it means you’re charting your course, allocating your precious time, and ultimately bringing more value to your constituents.  Here’s a hint: If the answer to any of those questions is “because we’ve always done it that way,” you have a strong candidate for the trash can.  I once sat down with my HR ops team and asked them to go through a list of all the reports they give our Finance/Accounting department.  Many of these reports weren’t easy to generate, consumed a great deal of time, and were an all-around disruption to other important activities.  After asking “why” a lot, we determined that a number of those reports weren’t even being looked at by the Accounting/Finance department, others could be consolidated into fewer reports, and several could easily be generated by the Finance/Accounting department themselves.  What a waste!  Now do this with all aspects of your HR practice and see what happens…it’s like cleaning out the closet or trunk of your car.  You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

We’re there to serve, but we have at least some say in who/what/how/when/why we serve.  You deserve to know, to question, to understand.  Stop being a “yes man,” never be a “no man,” and become a “why? man.”

Photo Credit: Thousanty One

  • Teresa Morris

    You’ve gone and put what’s in the back of my mind into words yet again. This is exactly what I’m trying to do within my department this year and didn’t know it until I read your blog. I want us to really examine why we are producing what we do for folks and whether it’s helping them obtain information they actually want and/or need. Mind you, I’m coming at this from the perspective of the accounting department (I promise that we don’t make HR do useless things – I’m half HR, so it would be like a boomerang!) but I think taking a few minutes/hours/days to really look at your processes whether within your department or just what’s on your own plate can save people from doing busy work that’s of no use to anyone in the long run.

  • Robin S

    I totally agree! And this is such an important thing to continue to do. Revamping and putting a new process in place is step 1; then assess and CONTINUE to ask “why?” It may still not be the ultimate value-added improvement or best deliverable and can be refined even further.

  • Ben Eubanks

    My boss had a bulletin board in her office throughout 2009 that screamed “WHY???” at everyone who read it. She was all about finding out why the heck people had settled for X or Y when it was clearly the wrong thing to do.

    This year’s going to be about the “how” of getting it done. I’m really looking forward to it. :-)

  • jasonseiden

    My 2 favorite questions:

    “Why?” (for current practices) and “Why not?” (for new ideas).

  • adowling

    We went through an excersie a few weeks ago with our leadership on the importance of asking why. Doing a little digging and asking why several times can often get you to root cause of a problem and save time and money. Great post!