Monday, February 5, 2018

"Blockers", "root cause", "5 whys" and you

Sometimes things are in the way of a good day.  They might be big or small, or internal or external but they are preventing you from having the day you want.  Those are good day blockers.

When blockers occur, we can let them remain and stop us in our tracks or we can work to remove them.  We can take each one as it comes along and change the world or ourselves to make today a good day.  Once all the blockers are gone, the day will be good.

It's like a "Choose your own adventure" book:
What is preventing a good day?
     Blocker X is preventing a good day
Remove Blocker X
    Blocker X is fixed (yay!!)
    Oh no! 
Blocker Y is in the way now.
    Remove Blocker Y
    Blocker Y can't be unblocked because of Blocker Z.
         Remove Blocker Z
    Remove Blocker Y
No Blockers!!
Have a good day!

At some point, all the blockers will be removed (or you may discover that you were the blocker and you don't really want it removed) and you can go on with your good day.

Oftentimes the hardest part of removing blockers is recognizing them.  Sometimes what you think is the problem really isn't.  Trying to find the root cause of a blocker can be the hardest part of dealing with one.

Let's say you need to call a family member to make today a good day.  Maybe you need information or a favor.  Maybe you need an audio hug.  Your battery is dead though.  
Problem:  I need to talk but I cannot.
Cause: Phone is dead.

Is that the root cause or the immediate cause and what's the best way to fix the root cause?
We can use the "5 Whys*" to trace the problem and find solutions.  Simply ask "why?" at least five times at each level of the issue.

Why is my phone dead?
  "I didn't charge it last night".
Why didn't you charge it last night?
  "I was too tired to plug it in."
Why were you too tired?
  "I stayed up late watching TV?"
Why was watching TV more important than rest?
  "It wasn't.  I was just killing time."
Why were you not resting instead?
  "I have no good reason.  I should go to bed sooner."

In this scenario there are multiple places where the immediate problem could be fixed (bring a power pack, plug in the phone before TV, set a reminder to plug in phone) and we've identified a root cause.

Blockers are going to differ and finding the right "whys" to ask may not be natural; it may feel a bit odd.  The thing is that, if the Blocker isn't removed by what you have asked or what you have answered or if it returns, you can try different whys, receive different answers, and do something different.  Repeat as necessary.

Having trouble dealing with a family member or a co-worker or a stranger?  Ask why.
Not enjoying your job or how you spend your day?  Ask why.
Sad?  Ask why.

One last (important) thing!  Once we think we know the root cause of the blocker we are trying to remove so that we can have or make a good day?  We need to do whatever we discovered we need to do.  Doing is the most critical part of today being a good day.

*The "5 whys" system was developed by Toyota Motor Company back in the day.