Daniel Tardy: License To Sell

Why did this happen?

Posted in Business by elephanthunters on December 17, 2009

When Communication Breaks Down

I just read the Inc. magazine column by Joel Spolsky titled ‘When and How to Micromanage‘.  It’s a great read for all leaders and especially relevant if you’re in the event business.  Spolsky tells the story of a recent engagement he was keynoting where the execution of several critical components with his production slipped through the cracks.  Somewhere between his original vision for the event and the actual event production, there were major communication breakdowns.  I see this happen often in the event business…there are just so many moving pieces.

Five Whys Exercise

Spolsky offers a fantastic problem solving technique to ensure the breakdown won’t happen again.  I’m stealing this tool for my own proverbial shed, because I think it’s a fabulous way to get to the root of the problem for any event, system or process.

Excerpt from Spolky’s post:

Five Whys is a problem-solving technique developed by Toyota after World War II to improve its manufacturing process. The idea is to ask “Why?” five times to get to the root of any failure, so you fix the core problem instead of the symptoms.

One problem [at our Austin event] was that we couldn’t switch video fast enough. Why? Because we were using a cheap switch purchased at an office superstore. Why? Because we assumed the venue operators would provide a high-quality switch, which they didn’t. Why? Because the venue didn’t have our list of AV requirements. Why? Because we didn’t get it there in time. Why? Because Carsonified didn’t yet have a standard checklist of procedures for each conference: what to do one month before, one week before, one day before, etc. Solution: Better checklists…

WARNING: ‘The 5th Why’ might point to you

When I read this technique I thought this would be a great thing for our live events team to use.  Just for fun, I quickly took several broken communication scenarios that have occurred recently with my team and I ran them through the ‘5 Whys’ test…

Guess what, every time ‘the 5th Why’ was my fault!

Dang it.

Reality Check

Small business owners are notorious for blaming their organizations shortcomings on their employees.  I cannot tell you how many times I hear business owners say something to the effect of, “If I could just get my team to behave, then I could take my company to the next level.”  One of the foundational pillars Dave Ramsey teaches our EntreLeadership attendees (mostly business owners) is that YOU are the biggest problem with your business; not your team, not your vendors, not your customers, YOU!  The good news is that YOU are also the solution.  You can do something about it.

What do you think?

Are you willing to ask ‘Why?’ 5 times even if it means your own mistakes will be revealed?

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5 Responses

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  1. Mike Larson said, on December 17, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    This is very insightful!

  2. Monte Bottens said, on December 17, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I am the problem with my business. Therefore, I have been working on the problem. It is a big problem! Dave’s no nonsense direct approach is exaclty what the entreleader needs to solve his or her problem. Where else can you have the opportunity to invest alot of money, travel to an exotic location so you can be trapped in a windowless room where some guy is jumping around the stage and verbally beating the tar out of you, get a headache with all the stuff you have to do when you get home, and then thoroughly enjoy the experience leaving charged up to take on the world?

  3. elephanthunters said, on December 17, 2009 at 2:51 pm


    Sorry about the lack of windows, but if my memory serves me correct you did go deep sea fishing 🙂

    I’m glad to hear that you’ve been working the plan, and it sounds like you’re getting some traction…stay strong!

    Thank you for the kind words and endorsement about EntreLeadership.


  4. Brian said, on December 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Sounds like something a 5 year old would do. If only we would go back to out childish ways instead of always have a sophisticated way of handing everything, we would really fix our broken processes.

    Thanks for the article! Dave always has an easy way of explaining things!

  5. Ana Yacubic said, on December 17, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    What a great approach. At the end of the day we are accountable for both our successes and our failures. This is a lesson in taking responsibility.

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