Learning the "Why" to Do the "What"

I’ve been busy helping to train some people. One person is new and having to learn everything. Another person is just learning a new position. I have noticed that not everyone worries about why something needs to be done, or what the process is to arrive at a conclusion. Some just want the end result told to them so they can do it.

Photo by Andrey Kiselev/PhotoXpress.com

I have tried to explain why something needs to be done. Understanding why helps me to see the importance of something. If I don’t see the importance, I may still do it, but the urgency may not be there. I personally have a craving to understand something before doing it – sometimes to a fault.

Even those that don’t have a craving to understand are affected if they don’t know the “why.” They become robots, simply executing commands. They don’t make decisions, but rather turn to someone else to make the decision. These type of people don’t seem to advance.

I was training a guy in a factory that asked how many units to send down the conveyor at a time. He was looking for a straight simple answer that he could execute. I took a minute to explain how figure it out. When I finally got to the answer (1 minute later), he said that’s all I had to say (just to give him the answer, not the explanation). I tried to explain to him that I was showing him how to figure it out on his own. Teach him to fish instead of just giving him a fish.

This eventually causes them frustration. “I’ve been doing this for ___ years, and they still won’t promote me!” These are the workers that complain that management is unfair and pick favorites. This may be the case in some places, but management is looking for people that can make decisions.

Granted, there may be times that the explanation may have to be skipped temporarily to keep things going. But time must be taken shortly afterward to teach the principle behind the practice.

Making decisions requires an understand of why. Excellence requires understanding why. Achievement, advancement, and success require understanding why. A winning team is built when all the team members understand what is going on and why it is going on.

Question: How has understanding something made you better?