When my husband and I became new parents, we wanted to do everything we could to raise our children well. We took several parenting classes and took notes on what other parents were doing to try to be prepared. One of the principles that stands out to me, even now, is the concept of explaining “why.” When a child asks a question, it’s important to explain why you are answering a certain way - instead of just stopping at “yes” or “no.” Likewise, if your child is being reprimanded for a negative behavior, they need to understand exactly why that behavior is unacceptable. Ideally, this will benefit both the parent and the child in complete understanding of the situation and consequences.
A few weeks ago, my family’s business needed to open a new bank account. Since I am the detail-oriented one, I made the trip to the bank for all of the necessary paperwork (lucky me). After years of business ownership and bookkeeping - and at one time working as a banker myself - I’m very familiar with the process of opening an account. Knowing what is generally required, I walked in with all of the appropriate information and documentation, including a business resolution signed by my husband, authorizing me to open the account for the business. When I got to the bank, however, the banker would not allow me to open the account without my husband/business partner present.
In frustration, I asked, “Why?”
“It’s bank policy,” she said.
Again, I asked, “Why?”
“That’s just how the bank does it.”
I walked out without understanding - and without a bank account.
Over time, any organization is going to face changes and challenges. As decisions are made on how to address these changes, one of the best questions to ask yourself is “Why?” Why do we support the programs that we do? Why do we operate out of this particular location? Why do we follow this specific process for day-to-day business? Why are our policies written the way that they are?
I heard a statistic recently that the American culture experiences significant changes every three to five years. With that rate of change everywhere around us, we need to be able to react effectively within our organization to remain relevant in today’s world. If you’re not asking “why,” you may quickly find yourself defending policies that should have been adjusted or abandoned long ago. By getting to the heart of “why,” you’ll see long-lasting benefits for the organization as a whole, and for each individual within the organization as they carry out their mission with understanding.