Over the years I have been surprised at the reticence of new employees to delve into the reasons why something is done in a specific way or done at all.
This varies between cultures and age groups but refreshingly millennials seem more likely to ask why early in their career than previous generations.
In my opinion, you will never be able to do your best work unless you can see the broader picture. You may play a small part in the organisation but unless you know what the organisation is all about, you won’t know how to do your part the best way that you can. In addition, if you only see and talk about your small part you may just be pigeon holed. You will limit your ability to grow and develop.
Think of your own role. If you have an understanding why something is done, truly why and not just because it says so in the procedure, you are in the best position to know whether more, or less, of the same helps or hinders. You will be more effective in what you do and not waste time or money doing something that has little or no impact.
Career wise, who do you think a manager would rather develop - a person who accepts everything or a person who seeks out the reasons for what is being done? A person who understands and can work with the organisation’s needs is far more valuable than someone who mindlessly carries out tasks for the sake of it.
Some people are afraid to ask questions for fear of doing the wrong thing or showing a lack of knowledge but to most managers good questions reflect an enquiring mind. If your questions are not welcomed it is likely to reflect more on the manager than you. It has been said that the best relationships between people are based on the questions we ask, so ask good relevant questions.
When your boss asks you to do something, ask how this will fit into the big picture. Find out what impact your department has on the rest of the organisation. How different departments work and how these may impact your group. Learn what is truly valued in your organisation.
The payoff is you will be seen by your boss and others as someone who can do more. Someone who is curious, thinks and can help the organisation.
On a personal level, you will understand your job better and will make better decisions because you understand what is and is not important. You will be more motivated, and it will be easier for you to take on new and different activities thereby being more valuable.
Asking why is good: for you, your boss and the company.
Now if you are keen to get to the core issue of something, try using the “5 Whys” method used in root cause analysis. Click here of an example. This can be used on any problem at any time. More over it can be used on any process that you are required to do. It helps challenge the assumptions often embedded in processes today. It can be used to change and even disrupt the way work is done.
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