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.

For help dealing with your California employment law needs, turn to attorney Nancy Gray and her experienced team today for a free consultation.


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