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Stop wasting your time with a ​useless question ‘why?’

WHY“Why?” is like a shovel. Very useful and peaceful on the first glance. But is it? You can dig deep, search for treasures, find meaning, or you can hit someone on the head or chase them away.

There are usually two reasons to use “why?” question. It is searching for value (why something is valuable) vs searching for the cause.

I want to explore the second usage of this word – looking for a cause.

“Why is this so?” “Why haven’t you delivered it?” “Why was it done like that?” “Why wasn’t it correctly done from the beginning?” Countless times I have heard this question on endless meetings, problem-solving workshops, lessons learned sessions. I am saying it is a waste of time.

What is the purpose of analysing problems and looking for reasons? Will it help you achieve different outcome next time? Probably. But what if I told you there is another way?

It is called solution-focused approach. The scary thing is that you have to let go all thinking about the problem and focus solely on the desired outcome. Instead of asking problem-focused questions and even blaming ones it is more useful to identify goals and find ways to achieve them.

Emerging evidence shows that solution-focused approach is more valuable: not only it is more motivating, but by using it more action steps are produced, and people progress towards their goals faster. Click To Tweet

Want to try? Here is how!


Identify one problem you would like to solve. It has to be quite frustrating, and you shouldn’t have a solution for that problem yet. It must be something real and personal. Something you are stuck with and have no idea what to do about.

Now, think about this problem more: when it began, what might cause it, WHY it is like it is. How having this problem influences your wellbeing? After you are done, spend some time assessing how inspired and motivated you feel, how likely you think you will be able to solve this problem.

Then, imagine that the problem magically disappeared on its own. Imagine you could reverse the situation to your liking and it will be something you are delighted with. What would you like to have instead of that problem? Try to see that desirable future, how it looks like, how it feels. And after you can practically smell it, think about some action steps that would help you to get there. Now, assess how inspired and motivated you feel now, and how likely you now think you will be able to solve this problem.

This is a solution-focused approach, in a nutshell, this is what us coaches use to help our clients think outside the box. This is how I try to facilitate nearly any meeting.

If you tried this, please share your experience in the comments.

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About me

My mission is to help leaders become powerful influencers whom people they work with will remember with gratitude and warmth. I am working on creating my unique approach by combining knowledge of Agile and Management 3.0 practices, my management experience and my coaching skills and competencies.