Example of How to Use “The 5 Whys” to Manage a Tricky HR Scenario
Here is an example of how to use the 5 Whys “in the real world” to get to the root cause of a managerial crisis. Imagine that you are trying to fill a slot for an Executive Sales Vice President. You have had a big turnover problem: six people have held the job in the last three calendar years.
What follows is the process that you might run — the questions you might ask, and the answers you might get:
Why #1: “Why we are having so much turnover at the sales VP position?”
Answer #1: “Because we have not clearly defined what we want from the position, and the rules and requirements of the position keep changing.”
Why #2: “Why have not we defined the rules and requirements of the position?”
Answer #2: “Because the company has been in flux, and our mission statement is also changing.”
Why #3: “Why have we been unable to define and stick with a mission, consistently, for more than a few months?”
Answer #3: “Because our executive team has not been able to define the nature of our core business.”
Why #4: “Why have not we defined our core business?”
Answer #4: “Because there are too many opportunities to pursue, and our company collectively has ADHD.”
Why #5: “Why does our company have ADHD?”
Answer #5: “Because the founders never articulated a clear, simple vision.”
This is a somewhat dramatic example to prove the point: what can seem like a “purely HR” problem may actually turn out to be a symptom of a larger, companywide issue.
In our next post, we will discuss how to use findings like this to take effective action.
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