I used to work for a company in their maintenance facility. One day my boss called me into his office and said, “You need to take 5-why training.” “Isn’t that just when you ask why 5 times?”, I replied. “Yeah, pretty much” was his response.
The 5-why method is a process of drilling down to a root cause. It is a very simple root cause analysis (and not very powerful) but it’s power is in that it can be used very easily by just about anyone. Let’s use maintenance as an example. Say a pump breaks down.
Scenario: Pump Breaks down.
Why? Mechanical seal failed. If you stopped at this point, you might simply try to replace the mechanical seal or blame the manufacturer. If you continue down with the process you will find…
Why? Wrong seal used.
Why? Proper seal not in the warehouse.
Why? Inventory database not updated
Why? don’t know…
You can see that the problem has shifted from a mechanical problem to a supply chain management problem. Drilling down using the 5-why method helped to get to the root cause. (though there may be further root causes, but we couldn’t find out the answer to this…)
When looking at assessing our wants vs our needs it is important to ask why. The 5-why serves as an example as to why you shouldn’t stop at the first why. You need to drill deeper. If you want to get yourself out of debt, or to improve your money situation, you need to ask why several times.
I want to buy the newest BMW. Why?
I need car. Why? And a BMW is one of several cars, why a BMW?
Because I want to ride in style. Why?
So people will be impressed with me, so I can impress my friends, my parents, so people will think that I’ve “made it”.
This is the point we want to get to. You have to really look inside yourself and understand why you think you need something. If it for status, you need to understand why you want that status. If you have convinced yourself that you do, then can you find another way of attaining that? Additionally, I’m assuming that being debt free is also important. So where does this want sit in relation to that want?
The point of this exercise is not to make you stop buying things (though it kind of is). The point is to get to the root problem as to why you think you need to buy these things. What purpose are they filling? Is it for status? Is it to satisfy a need?
The hard part of this exercise is being honest with yourself. For this to work, you have to look unflinchingly at the reasons behind your behavior.
Try it. Ask yourself… why?