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March 6, 2013

The Five Layers of “Why?” Use the Ritz Carlton’s Method to Identify the Root Cause of Any Problem

By guest blogger Maggie Reyes

"Why?" is bar none my favorite question ever.

If you ask my best friend what she remembers about growing up with me (besides the slumber parties and ice cream) she will say it's that I always asked Why. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to know how things worked and why things are the way they are.

So imagine my delight when I was studiously learning life coaching tools and techniques and our Master Coaches drilled into us that why is the most important question we can ask our clients whenever they are stuck, feeling bad or otherwise not standing in their personal power.

I was giddy.

You mean now I get to ask Why for a living? Seriously. I love my life.

Then I read a book about Excellence. The book is called Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization. It profiles the service culture and procedures at the Ritz Carlton, and the synopsis on Amazon is right on. They say that "[the authors'] philosophies, rules, and winning examples of service excellence will make you want to implement their suggestions immediately in your own organization." Yes I do. I want to implement their suggestions in the organization called my home, my relationship and the management of my mind.

Why do I want to use their suggestions?

Well it's very simple really. The same method Life Coaches use to help their clients identify the thoughts and beliefs that are holding them back from their full potential is the exact same strategy that the Ritz Carlton uses to ensure 5 Star luxury service at their hotels.

Whenever the Ritz Carlton team identify a problem, mistake or inefficiency their directive is to get to the root cause by using a very simple method that we have baptized and re-named in my house, "The 5 Layers of Why." Let me repeat: You can use the same tool the Ritz Carlton and Master Life Coaches use to get to the root of any problem.

Symptoms are never the issue. Remember this. Symptoms are alarms, alerting you that something is wrong. Solving a symptom is never the answer. Identifying the root cause is the most powerful thing you can to do solve any problem.

Those Ritz Carlton people – brainy. So pay close attention to what I am about to say.

When you are experiencing a problem of any kind –
  • Stop.
  • Pause.
  • Sit. Or stand if you must, but definitely stop and pause.

And then -

Ask Why at least 5 times.

Here is an example from the book:

Problem: Late Room Service
  1. Why? Waiters stuck waiting for elevator
  2. Why? Elevator monopolized by housekeeping
  3. Why? Housekeeping searching for/storing/hoarding linens
  4. Why? Shortage of Linens
  5. Why? Inventory of linens only sufficient for 80 percent occupancy

Do you see how asking one or two whys is not enough to get the root of the problem? Do you see how knowing that there is not enough linen on hand empowers the team to order more linen and solve the bigger problem?

Here is an example from life:

Problem: Wife Crying
  1. Why? Husband snapped at her and used a nasty tone
  2. Why? He was exasperated
  3. Why? Wife was late to a very important client dinner
  4. Why? Because she just found out she is pregnant
  5. Why? She is scared to share the news
  6. Why? Husband took 20% pay cut last year
  7. Why? She is worried about how they are going to pay for medical bills

Do you see how the Wife crying is a symptom that is like an alarm saying "something is wrong here"? Giving her Kleenex and stopping the symptom will do nothing to solve the underlying problem of her worry about the medical bills. However talking with her husband and finding out the new client is going to bring in double last year's business might give her relief. Sharing with him that she is pregnant might help him understand why she was late, and his frustration could become excitement and joy.

The 5 Layers of Why is not cake, but the relief it can give you is sweet and delicious.

Is there a situation on your mind right now that you can ask Why about to identify the root cause?

I am applying service principles from the Ritz Carlton to relationships. What is your favorite company or brand? What can it teach us about relationships and love?

© 2013 Maggie Reyes. Reprinted with permission. Maggie Reyes is a life coach and blogger who empowers her clients and students to achieve authentic success in romance, relationships, life and work through her blog posts, workshops, and personalized coaching programs. Maggie is known for her sassy yet practical advice and has been featured on Focus on the Family Canada, Military Spouse Magazine and the nationally syndicated radio show, Day Break USA. She shares marriage advice and life inspiration at www.modernmarried.com.

Image courtesy of dusky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

11 fabulous comments:

  1. Just wanted to say THANK YOU very much for the priveledge and honor to be among the best marriage bloggers on your pages.

    Beaming with Delight and Gratitude!


    1. Maggie, it's great to have you here. I enjoy your blog and now I can be sure all my readers will be aware of it, too.

    2. Thanks Rosemary!

      Positive Reinforcement is my favorite vitamin!

    3. CJ! being scientists and researchers of our own lives is my version of super fun! the discoveries we make and joys we create...awesome! and love the word "mischief" one of my coaches taught me "shenanigans" - love having juicy words to describe things...

  2. And then there is the "why" that is little more than a veiled criticism, seeking to condemn, but not seeking a truthful answer.

    1. Certainly some people use "why" - and anything else - in a hurtful way. If someone is asking "Why are you such an idiot?" then it's clear they aren't really trying to solve the problem. But most of the time, "Why?" is the question that we all really want answered, more than anything else. Unfortunately, it's a question that can make some people very defensive, and so it doesn't always lead to a straight answer. Sometimes it is helpful to rephrase the question. If you are dealing with a sensitive person who freezes or gets angry when asked why, try phrasing the question differently. "What happened?" or "What led up to this?" can sometimes be a less threatening approach.

    2. Rosemary - agree 100%
      Unknown - you don't have to ask another person why - why is a tool to use on yourself. no one else needed.

      Also like any tool, it can be used for good or bad. I can use a knife to create a beautiful meal or to cause harm. I can use words to injure or to elevate. Questions too.

      The tool is neutral. Also, many times we use tools for "self-condemnation" and reproach. That is a cycle of pain that will only bring more pain.

      Whenever we can make an empowering choice we are helping the world and ourselves. Even if the choice is tiny and it comes in the form of a question we ask ourselves, to bring peace or clarity.

      Sending Love & Light To All...

  3. Hi Maggie! Hi Rosemary! Yes to all those concepts. Every time we ask why and peel back a layer we get a little closer to an answer, a good quality answer. That is why I love science so much. Those people never settle for half-baked solutions. They really get it. Why not deal with the best possible information in a marriage too? Terrific work, Maggie!

    To "unknown": that type of mischief can be dismissed as question begging and has no place in a loving relationship.

  4. I love how you always make me think, Maggie. The example you gave makes it so clear. You really have to go DEEP with the whys or you might not be getting the whole picture.

    I'm so glad to see you over here visiting Rosemary! Thumbs up to two great women!

    1. Thanks Tammy!

      Around the house we have a fun saying the hubs coined: "I think things." so one of us will say something the other one finds brilliant (hehe) and the other one will reply -deadpan- "I think things." So fun!

  5. Wow - what a great concept! Thanks for sharing.


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