Start with “Why” before you move to “How”

Start with "Why" before you move to "How"

Something I've noticed over my years in consulting is that when there is a process problem the natural inclination is to ask "How can we make this process easier/better/faster?" But as often as not, the real question we should be asking first is "WHY are we doing this?" Or to put it another way, "What are we trying to accomplish with this process?"

I once worked with an association who had been working very hard to improve their online membership application. Part of the challenge was that their paper application was four pages long and trying to collect all that data online was proving to be very cumbersome. So rather than suggesting how we might change the process to improve it, I first asked "Why are we collecting all this data during the membership application process?"

Not surprisingly, some of the answers included "We analyze this information for trends" and "We've always collected this information." But the truth was, the information wasn't necessary as part of the application process. So eventually the association agreed to remove most of the questions during the application process, deciding instead to collect that additional information after the membership had been processed.

Too often when we go to fix a process, we only look at how we can change the process, rather than considering whether we need the process at all. That is why we need to ask "why" before we ask "how."

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