Why we believe in asking, “Why?”

Today, curiosity is one of our core values. We dig deep to uncover the underlying reasons why a challenge or issue is happening, or why a client wants a particular solution. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when we gave the customer what they asked for without asking, “Why?”—and it cost both us and our clients.

Success can turn to failure when you don’t ask, “Why?”

A few years ago, a client was upgrading some of their locations to a new, modern restaurant environment. As part of the upgrade, we produced some stylish uniforms that fit the vibe and feel of the remodeled locations. The employees loved the gear. The client was happy. All was well in the world.

Then the client placed a large order for more of the new uniforms. We didn’t ask, “Why?” We just filled the order, as our client requested. What we didn’t know is that they had decided to roll out the same uniforms to the rest of their stores. This included all the existing stores that hadn’t yet been remodeled. It seemed like a no-brainer to the client. Everyone loved the new uniform so far, so why not share it with all the employees? But it wasn’t as simple as that.

The same uniform that was received with joy in one restaurant, was seen as too modern and didn’t fit the older workforce at some of the more established locations. Pretty soon it started creating hiring challenges. The corporate office was receiving negative feedback. That hurt our sales and our client’s employee morale.

A missed opportunity to share our expertise

When we noticed the change, we immediately asked, “Why?” We recognized that our role as a consultant is to ask better questions, to dig deeper, to find out why the customer is requesting something. We missed the opportunity to share our expertise before the misstep happened by not asking, “Why?” upfront. It doesn’t serve either of us to just take requests at face value and roll with it. We know a lot about handling employee uniform programs, most of it from the wise and unforgiving educator—experience.

Ask 5 Whys

I don’t know who said it, but it’s been repeated often enough that it’s worth including here: Ask 5 Whys. Each answer allows you to dig a little deeper, to find ground truth before you move forward with a decision. It uncovers biases and limited perspectives. It sheds light on your motives. Here is an example:

  1. Why do you want new employee uniforms? Because I want all my employees to look more professional and put together.
  2. Why do you want them to look that way? Because it makes it a better experience for the customer.
  3. Why is that important? Because we care about our customers and want to serve them well.
  4. Why is that important? Because it demonstrates that we care about them, so we show up as a team.
  5. Why does that matter? Because people are important and they are the reason we exist as a business.

It’s a simple exercise but it demonstrates why a new uniform program is needed and how it directly relates to your service to your patrons. I hope you find asking, “Why?” as valuable as we have. I promise it will get you to think more deeply about the reason behind a desire or initiative.

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