Tuesday Toolkit 11/17/2020

Tool of the Week
This week we’re doing a deep dive into the 5 Whys. As the name suggests, the tool is asking the question “Why?” five times. The goal being to get to the root cause of an issue. When a problem arises, the best possible outcome is to eliminate the reason that the problem happened in the first place. Not just eliminate the symptom of the problem, but really eliminate the source of the problem so it does not happen again.

The symptom of falling down might be a scraped knee. A band aid might provide a bit of relief and a quick fix for the bleeding. But the root cause of the problem has not been identified. The reason for falling down has not been dealt with. If you fell because you did not tie your shoes and tripped on the laces, eliminating the problem might look like making sure you double check your knots before walking anywhere. If you fell because the sidewalk was covered in ice, maybe walking slower or wearing better shoes is the proper solution. It’s not enough to just put band aids on wounds, the cause of the wound must be addressed.Let’s take a look at a more adult-y version of this. 

Imagine yourself as a manger during times of Covid. The team of people you manage routinely requires your approval for simple things that they should be able to figure out. Asking why they have the issue will yield some answer; possibly they have an issue because they were not trained thoroughly on the topic. Asking why again may yield an answer like, the person who was supposed to train them on the topic was working from home and doing the training virtually instead of in person. Asking why again might sound more like, “why was the training done virtually” as opposed to just a blanket “why”. Now we are getting into a more focused type of why question. The focused why question might yield an answer like, to keep the group sizes smaller and limit the spread of internal covid cases, training has moved to a virtual setting. Asking why there is not in person, small group training, might be a good next question. It’s a focused question and the result might be something along the lines of, small group training is too time consuming. Now we are starting to see a more clear picture. Exploring why small group training is too time consuming may yield an answer along the lines of budget constraints or time management or too many competing priorities, etc. The root cause of all the fires you, as a manager, have to put out is that new constraints on the business mean certain steps are being skipped or are unable to be completed in the right (preferable) way. So now what? 

Now we go to the drawing board to show that the skimpy training on the front end leads to more head aches and wasted time on the back end. If there isn’t enough time or resources to do the training right from the beginning, why is it assumed there is enough time and resources to deal with issues on the back end?Asking why is not just about asking the same three letter question over and over. It’s about getting the most useful information, asking pointed why questions and seeking out the root cause of a problem. In our fake example, the root cause is a resource constraint and the symptom is actually more pressure on resources. By eliminating the root cause – say, by doing live in person training with a small group of people, the time saved and resources available on the back end might alleviate the strain on the front end. (maybe. In reality, the options will have more clear consequences than in a fictitious example) Going upstream to identify the root cause requires being truly tuned into the entire operation and understanding how all the moving pieces fit together. The further away the decision maker is from the actual work, the more downsides and other issues will arise from whatever decision is made. Being on the line, in the weeds means you’ll have a cleaner picture to work with. 

In summary – Asking why an issue is happening a bunch of times gets you much closer to the source of a problem. Eliminate the source, prevent the issue from coming back again. Progress! 

Where are the decision makers relative to their decisions at your company? Let me know on Twitter: @Quinn_Hanson22

Now, the fun stuff

Trivia of the week
Can you unscramble these countries and territories?
1. Uuvnnat
2. Dnlahita
3. Aictora
4. Zrilba
5. Sktru nad saicco
6. Ccooorm

Quote of the Week
This is more of a life principle than a quote. One of Ray Dalio’s thoughts on prioritization-  “All of your “must -dos” must be above the bar before you do your “like-to-dos.” Separate your “must-dos” from your “like-to-dos” and don’t mistakenly add any “like-to-dos” onto the first list.  

Tweet of the WeekI spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to be when I grow up. I tend to limit my options based on what experience I already have. This take from Entrepreneur and Investor Austin Rief brought some much needed relief. 
Image description

Article of the Week Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World
By Morgan Housel (The full article takes ~ 10 minutes to read and is worth every one of them.)

The article begins by painting a picture about how WWII is the most significant contributor to the world’s shape and how nearly any recent phenomenon can trace its roots back to WWII. Some examples given are the 2008 mortgage crisis can trace its roots to declining interest rates the preceding 30 years, which was preceded by the Vietnam war, which really was a function of geopolitical relations gone wrong that can be traced back to WWII. 

Other things that came from WWII that have shaped our modern world are cultural differences between European countries and the USA (life is much different when the battles are fought in your own back yard), we got radar, jet planes, the foundation for the internet, penicillin, nuclear energy and helicopters. Even the female labor force grew by 6.5 Million during WWII which led to a 100% increase in working women by 1990. WWII is like the great grand parent to all of us.
The question Housel wants to answer is, what other similar sized events are happening right now that will impact the future? Housel goes on to point out that the three big things shaping history right now, for better or worse, are; 

1. A demographic shift that reconfigures modern economics 
– In 1960, there were 3x more people ages 0-4 than 70-74. By 2060, those groups will be about even. 

– The share of young workers is declining and the share of older workers is increasing. 

– Immigration will be required to make up for gaps in the work force. Right now, immigrants are 13% of the population, but 27.5% of the entrepreneurs. 

2. Wealth inequality that has grown for four decades hits an inevitable breaking point
– Rich people use their money to get richer and thus gain power and influence over policy. Non-rich people band together to create conditions that are more favorable to them. Both look at the other and claim, “this isn’t right, you can’t do that” and “too bad, that’s the way the system works” at the same time. 

– “Part of it is already happening. Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Brexit all represent people saying, “Stop the ride, we’re going to try something new. If you don’t like it, too bad. This is the way things work.”” 

3. Access to information closes gaps that used to create a social shield of ignorance 
– What stumped detectives for almost four decades was solved by Facebook and Craigslist in less than a week.The telephone eliminated the information gap between you and a distant relative, but the internet has closed the gap between you and literally every stranger in the world.

– “I thought Twitter was driving us apart, but I’m slowly starting to think half of you always hated the other half but never knew it until Twitter.” This is a good point that highlights something easy to overlook: 1) everyone belongs to a tribe, 2) those tribes sometimes fundamentally disagree with one another, 3) that’s fine if those tribes keep their distance, 4) the internet increasingly assures that they don’t.

– You could continue on this topic endlessly. The odds that online dating doesn’t fundamentally alter marriage over the next few generations seem, to me, like zero. The odds that online education doesn’t grow in influence, also zero. Geopolitics also seems like a funny contradiction of being more fragile (diplomacy by Twitter) yet more reliant on each other (global markets) than ever. Then there’s the question of the rules of how a presidential campaign works when both candidates had social media in high school, when everyone posts stuff they’ll later regret. It’ll be fascinating to watch – equal parts inspirational and terrifying.


Thanks for tuning in this week! If you found value in this, please share it with your friends, colleagues, associates, acquaintances, family members, bowling leagues, partners, tinder dates and strangers. The larger we grow this audience, the more greatness can be shared. 

Trivia Answers
1. Nunavut
2. Thailand
3. Croatia
4. Brazil 
5. Turks and Caicos 
6. Morocco

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