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Why, Why Why: A Waste of Time?

Imagine how much time you spend in your day asking "why this?" or "why that?". How much time do you spend asking why about things that really do not matter in terms of the ROI of your professional or personal time.?

I am focused on being more productive this year, and here is what I ask myself at least once a day (don't worry, no one answers):

  1. I am asking why about something I can't control?
  2. Is it worth my time to find out why?
  3. Am I expecting to find a logical answer to the question why from a person who is illogical or is not known for their honesty?
  4. Am I asking why in an e-mail?
  5. Am I asking the right person why?
  6. Is there actually a  reason for an event or circumstance?

If I answer yes to any of the above I need to move on with my day or make a phone call (4. above)


Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Why did I even click on this?.........Ernie...just a friendly rub!

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Webinars
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Webinars) |

No need to be friendly! You just need to be nice to Wayne, he is my trusted colleague.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Thank you kindly Ernie... I needed the pick me up! - LOL

Topic Expert
Scott MacDonald
Title: President/Owner
Company: AlphaMac Resources, Inc.
(President/Owner, AlphaMac Resources, Inc.) |

Interesting thought. I would say in some instances this makes some sense. But it has a hint of burying your head in the sand. As an experienced business person, there have been times when something didn't "feel" right to me. So I asked questions, even though it wasn't in my direct control, and found an issue. Like when I worked for the FBI and found them violating Federal laws in their electronic surveillance program. May not have been worth my job, but I can sleep at night.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

I tend to ask why at work because my current position is a lower level than I'd like to be in the corporate world. I ask why so that I can learn how things are done and the logic (or lack of it) behind decisions.

1.) I may be unable to control situations now, by perhaps I can learn to influence decision-makers when it comes time.

2.) In the end it may not be worth my time to ask why, but I don't know if it is until a later time.

3.) I'm hoping for logic, but I don't always expect.

4.) I ask over email because I like to have things documented. It's also why I buy books and highlight and make notes in the margins.

5.) I think I'm asking the right person, but I don't always know until I ask them. I then hope they point me to the right person if they don't know.

6.) I do believe there's always a reason for the event or circumstance. However, as the social media meme implies, "Sometimes that reason is because you're stupid and make poor decisions." Or in a more professional manner, it's because the company made a poor decision for one reason or another.

David Smith
Title: Manager
Company: Private
(Manager, Private) |

Ernie, I don't know how much time you spend asking "why" so that cutting this word out of your vocabulary will really be a game changer. I'm just going go ahead to take your word for that.

Personally, I would like to remove these words and phrases from my vocabulary; "embrace," "reach-out," "acknowledge," "on-point," "spot-on," "no problem" and "yes."

Articles (a, an, and, the) and adverbs are also kind of useless filler words. The sentence "he slowly walked through the open door" is pretty much the same as "he walked through open door." Right there, I saved two whole words.

I do agree with you that understanding things is really over-rated. Personally, I just try to do stuff without thinking too much. Any time I spend thinking usually doesn't appear to others to be doing something and that's a huge risk to my personal brand.

I tend to hire unquestioning automatons like myself to perform tasks. That's why (oops) robots are so appealing. However, robots may never be able to manage quality snark. And that's why (dang, that word again), I can't delegate everything to a robot.

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Webinars
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Webinars) |

I am glad my question/commentary is generating comments. Funny if those commenting knew me or read my blogs on Proformative ( I think there are well over 50 over the past six years) you would know that I do ask "why" often, and it got to the point where I was working way too many hours. I will not deliver any sarcasm here as this is not the right platform

(Controller) |

Don't forget the concept of asking "why" 5 times to get to the root of the problem (and maybe trip up those dishonest people). I've also found that asking "why" can be a valuable way to determine if those repetitive tasks that have always been done are truly necessary.

Michael Filiatrault
Title: Associate Director, Financial Planning a..
Company: Merck
(Associate Director, Financial Planning and Analysis - US Market, Merck) |

I'm a big believer in the 5 Whys. Many complex problems and decisions can be made simpler by asking why. On the flip side, asking "why" can be risky. Do you remember how frustrating it can be to withstand the 20 whys from a child? Did you resort to "because I said so"? Consider the audience and other party before asking "why".

James Kelley
Title: President
Company: JGK & Associates
(President, JGK & Associates) |

Effective use of the word "why" could best serve in asking why do I need to ask this question. I believe the word "what" and the specifics is a much more powerful word.
As in Chris' 2/24comment above, perhaps a powerful internal question could be relating to what do I need to do to advance to my next position and create a project to attain the advancement. (Oop's, too many words). I love working in the what space as it keeps me in action.

Michelle Rogers
Title: Principle
Company: MR Consulting
(Principle, MR Consulting) |

Interesting conversation. My take on the post is, for those of us that get too detailed, try to save those 'why's' for the important stuff. As with anything, moderation is the key. A primary reason I pursued the accounting profession was because I wanted to know 'why'. Why do businesses work they way they do and what are the implications of choosing one approach over another. Why do we do it this way? Or, is it time to consider a different approach. If it's a thoughtful 'why', great. If it's a 'why' for the small stuff, then ask yourself 'why' are you asking 'why'.

Robert Islas
Title: Controller
Company: Crossroads Diversified Services, Inc.
(Controller, Crossroads Diversified Services, Inc.) |

I will have to respectively disagree. I understand what you are saying, and you have some valid points. I have found that Why is the most important question there is. All other questions are details: what, who, when, how. Asking Why needs to improvement in processes, procedures, policies, etc. I want my staff to always be mindful if there is a better way to complete a task, job, and so forth; i feel this done on a regular basis if they Why.


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