The All Important “Why Not”

I am currently working on an post acquisition integration project with a lot of complexity. There are so many moving parts, dependencies and decisions. I often find myself in multiple meetings per day attempting to solve problems, raise awareness and answer questions on behalf of my client.

Recently I was in a meeting discussing business requirements and requests with IT. There was a request that the business was already fairly sure IT would say no to, and I was prepared for how that conversation would go. After introducing the requirement, I knew the business was prepared to form a rebuttal, on the edge of their seats ready to plead their case and business need. The IT group responded, and then something truly unexpected happened. One of the stakeholders in the room responded with simply “why not?” The simplicity and sincerity of his response caught everyone off guard. He delved a little bit deeper to ask questions about why the answer was no. Was it a storage issue? A manpower issue? A system interaction issue? This collaboration got me thinking.

Conversations like this happen so frequently between different business units…and really, in a lot of other areas of life. How often do we assume an answer is no without asking why the question is no? Inadvertently, we limit ourselves and our business units before ever even finding out what options and possibilities exist.

The next time you are in a meeting where you assume there will be a no answer- channel your inner inquisitor and ask “why not?” You just might be surprised.

1 Comment

  • Ann T. Ho September 30, 2015 4:01 pm

    Too true! We will often blindly accept business requirements because of HiPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion) without asking the five Whys. Why indeed shouldn’t we ask “Why not?” especially when we’re talking about areas of innovation and disruptive features/products?

    Even in the reverse, it’s still easy to fall prey to unjustified positions so it’s critical to be as data-driven as reasonably possible. Extend the question and ask: What is the “do nothing” impact? What is the cost of delay? Quantify everything.

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