Asking Why

Seth Godin has a post about answering “why?” sorts of questions, concluding with a great line:

“The single most efficient (and lowest cost) technique for improving your operations is answering the why questions! You should embrace these people, not send them away.”

Last week I had a customer ask me why my team has a policy to do something a certain way. My response was “you know, I know why we did it in the past, but it doesn’t make any sense now.” The simple question of “why?” prompted a policy change.

I always try to answer “why” questions with a truthful answer. If I don’t know why something is the way it is I find out. I hate argument by authority answers like “because it’s our policy.” I will never leave an answer at that. Sure, sometimes my explanation of why we do things a certain way doesn’t go over well, but then the customer and I can have a productive discussion to sort it out.

As a system administrator, what do you do when someone asks you ‘why?’

Can everybody on your team answer a “why” question? If not, do they feel comfortable passing that question to someone else who can answer it?

Why not?

Homework: at your next team or group meeting let everybody ask one question of the rest of the group, about anything work-related. If you run out of time pick it up again at the next meeting. If a question cannot be answered designate someone to figure it out.

3 thoughts on “Asking Why”

  1. 🙂 i love the idea of asking ‘Why?’ – Sometimes we get so involved in what we have to do that we forget why we were doing it in the first place…

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