Welcome to the twentieth of our Entrepreneurial Wednesdays series. In this series, I share my thoughts on lean entrepreneurship as I take my first steps in my journey. I will be sharing my lessons learned with you.
Being a part of an early-stage startup, it didn’t take me long to realize one thing, the more you go in depth on something, the better you execute. This means that whenever there’s a problem, I’m trying to dig deep into where it started so that the team can solve it with long-term positive impacts. This approach is rather new in the way I look at solving problems but it has already proven to be really efficient and solves right the cause of the problem.
Why? Why is it happening to me?
When something unexpected happens and it forces you to put in more effort, that’s a problem. To solve this problem you have to put in, even more, effort which is sometimes wasted because the problem reoccurs. This is why it is very important to dig deep and see where the problem started, so you can solve the original setback in the first place.
There is an easy method how to do this and it’s called ”The Method of 5 Whys”. While it’s super easy, it’s also really efficient and can be used in any situation. Let’s say that there is a machine, which suddenly stopped to work. Here’s how the method will help you uncover where the true problem lies:
1. Question – Why did the machine stop? (Because there was an overload)
2. Question – Why there was an overload? (One part of the machine wasn’t oiled enough)
3. Question – Why it wasn’t oiled enough? (The oiling machine didn’t work properly)
4. Question – Why didn’t the oiling machine work properly? (Because it was overused and not reliable anymore)
5. Question – Why it was overused? (Because it wasn’t maintained for a longer period of time)
Can you see the main benefit of this method? If you look at the problem, it seems that the machine in the production stopped because it wasn’t oiled enough. By oiling it you solve the problem, but only for a very short period of time. During this time, not only will be the oiling machine more overused, but you will spend time and money on solving just the surface of the problem (the problem with the machine in the production not being oiled enough).
Investing in problems
And you know, problems are like pyramids. And a bit like onions. They have their layers, but once you uncover these layers, you understand how much money will you spend solving the problem if layer by layer, they start to fall. So, instead of taking care of the surface of the problem, go in depth and you might want to check the core. That’s where you probably have to make a bigger investment, but with a long-term impact. This way the ROI is so much higher than with a smaller investment in the surface of the problem.
But there’s also a really nice trick for investing and prevention. It takes just normal business brain to figure this one out, but a good reminder is always useful. To stop problems from dictating your life, you only need to invest wisely and regularly. I know, this can be done until a point in time. If a company is big enough, is it still possible?
My answer is: If Toyota can do it, so do you! Actually, the ”Method of 5 Whys” was created by Taiiči Óno, the father of the production system in Toyota. And if that’s not enough let me support this approach by one of the most popular quotes from Gary Vaynerchuk: ”It’s always the depth, that matters, it’s never the width.”
I know, I know. Gary might be talking about a different topic but the way I see it, you can apply depth>width to anything in business!
I really want you to try this at least a few times before you judge. I did and I found out how great this method is. And I sometimes apply it in my personal life. The reason why I really like it is because it’s the closest thing to having a magic wand and solving your problems with a wave of your hand.
If you have already used this method for a while now, I’m eager to hear your opinion and experience. Especially, in which situations this method helped you to get out of a huge mess and if you would recommend this method to your friends, colleagues, employees.