What’s Wrong With Why?

Question markProject managers are taught to ask why and encouraged to ask it many times. Remove it from your vocabulary!

“It’s not an excuse, it’s a reason”

Why is a confrontation. Why asks for motives. Motives justify. We are saints and all others are psychopaths (Actor-observer asymmetry). We are getting a lot of biased information with why. How, what, when, where and who are curiosity — friendly questions about facts.

A project is how, what, when, where, and who. We want processes and facts. The why is a conclusion based on facts: Costs, Benefits, ROI…. Removing why and rewording your questions will get you the facts more quickly.

We Need A Faster Server
Why do you think we need a faster server?  The system is too slow.
Why is it too slow?  It takes forever to prepare management reports.
vs What problem does the faster server fix?  The management reports take too long to prepare with this server.
Why does it take forever?  I need lots of data from different places. vs How long does it take?  Two days to gather all the data for the management reports.
Why do you need lots of data?  I need it to assemble the management reports.
Why do you need to assemble the reports?  I don’t have all information I need in one place.
vs What do you do with the data?  I need to pull it all together in one place to run the management reports.

Ask friendly questions and you may only need three questions to ask five why’s!

Why, why, why, why, why do you need this?

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