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3 Ways to Apply 1 Simple Lean Tool and 10x Your Startup Performance

· team performance,lean optimization

Today, we're bringing you a famous Lean management tool and 3 different ways you can use it to increase your startup's performance:

The Tool

Also known in the sales industry, the 5 Whys is a tool often used in Lean management as it helps producers identify the root cause of a problem and solve it quickly and effectively.

Its importance for startups

You've probably heard the sentence "treat the cause, not the symptoms". If you go to the doctor with a fever he can either treat your fever or investigate and discover you're about to have an appendicitis. Two very different situations.

In business and team management, the same might happen. 

You may look at a given outcome or superficial issue and try to solve it when instead if you dig a little bit, you'll find the real root cause. Treating the cause instead is more effective and more sustainable in the long term.

Given you have a lot on your hands, investing one more hour now might seem luxurious but it will save you much more time in the future.

How it works

Very simple, you ask "why?" five times.

Let's say one of the issues you're facing with your team is that you're taking too long to finish a proposal for a client.

Start with the first why:

- Why are you taking so much time?

... because whoever was responsible for it didn't have all the information

... because whoever was doing it was not autonomous enough

... because whoever was doing it had other responsibilities that were priority

Whichever your answer is, you pick up that answer and transform it into your second "why?"

- Why didn't that person have all the information?

- Why didn't that person have enough autonomy?

- Why wasn't this a priority?/ Why was this task assigned to this person?

You can understand how it goes from here. You keep going until you've asked "why?" five times.

As you go through this exercise, it might become harder to answer it and you may want to circle back (a common example being "I don't have time", asking why a couple of times and circling back to "I don't have time").

When you get here, push through to the uncomfortable truths.

For example, instead of circling back to "not having time", you might answer "it's not a priority". It's hard to admit, it's painful, but the truth will set you free.

When you find the real root cause of the effects/results you're having, then you can work to change them.

3 Different ways of using the 5 Whys

Often applied in lean manufacturing in production contexts, this tool can also be applied to people management. Particularly, to improve your startup team's performance.

You can apply it to various scenarios, here are 3 unconventional suggestions:

1. Understand why deadlines keep not being met

You can use the 5 whys to understand why you're failing to deliver on deadlines (both as a team or individually as elements of the team)

2. Improve your communication

Often times there's too much "noise" in all the tools you use to communicate between each other and it's common for it to be overwhelming, for information to cross over or even for information to get lost.

Using the 5 whys will help you understand what practices are damaging your communication.

3. Motivate your team

If you venture into taking the time to work on your teams motivation, using the 5 whys is a great way to understand what are the real reasons people are working with you on that startup.

You might uncover different motivations from recognition to being challenged, from making money to exploring personal creativity.

When you know these, you can use it to motivate your team members and improve your startup performance.

At Storm we build high performing startup teams.

We'd love to help you build yours.

You can find out more about what we do here or email us if you have any questions. Or:

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