When presented with a problem, most of us are quick to offer a solution without really understanding the problem. This is common in everyday life, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it is prevalent in business as well. However, great business leaders, advisors, and consultants are careful to ask the right questions and never jump to conclusions.
In this post, we will illustrate how we used “5 Whys” to find the root cause of a problem (e.g. poorly performing website), but there are many other examples we can highlight to illustrate the usefulness of the “5 Whys”.
Before we go any further, if you are not familiar with the “5 Whys”, it was created by Toyota and is one of the key elements of their “Kaizen” approach of continuous improvement. In essence, to find a root cause of a problem you have to keep asking “Why” until the real reason reveals itself, and it typically takes at least 5 “why” questions.
Poorly performing website (client example):
1. Why is the website only generating 5-6 leads per month? Because at the current conversion rate (1%) they need 100 visitors for every new lead.
2. Why is the conversion rate so low? Most visitors only spend 20-30 seconds on the website. This is not enough time to learn about the business and available service offerings.
3. Why do most visitors only spend 20-30 seconds on the website? Because most visitors don’t find the website content relevant or helpful.
4. Why is the content not relevant or helpful? Because most of the content is out of date (over two years old).
5. Why isn’t there any fresh content on the website? Lack of time and writing content is always a low priority task.
While this is a simple example, it illustrates the power of asking questions (drilling down in the problem). If we stopped asking questions after the first answer, our recommendation might have been focused around attracting more visitors. However, the real issue is a low conversion rate, and the root cause being lack of time to create new content.
When you identify the real problem and can show a clear link to revenue, then most business owners or leaders are compelled to act. In this specific case, it wasn’t difficult to persuade the business owner to allocate more time to content marketing, because we identified the problem and were able to show a clear impact on revenue. New content, which must be useful and relevant, will keep potential customers engaged for longer – increasing the conversion rate and resulting in more leads.
Finally, in some cases, you may have to ask more than five questions, but in most cases, five questions are sufficient to highlight the root cause of a problem.