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First set the stage as to why you’re asking why. Be sure to let people know the purpose: to work the causal chain. Otherwise, people may feel like you are interrogating them. We sometimes get too caught up in applying a tool rather than how we’re applying it or how it makes people feel which is just as, if not more important. Leading to root cause is important, but sometimes we meander there, as opposed to taking a direct straight line route! Especially if this is people’s first time. Let people brainstorm possible root causes, then, select one or a few possible root causes that may lead to working back the causal chain versus solving world hunger or boiling the ocean.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.