…yours is just to do or die.” You have likely heard these words before, which originate from a military chant. It’s understandable that the military must operate with a system of command and control. But, in my opinion, blind adherence to tradition or authority has little place in a business enterprise.
Certainly, no firm can effectively operate without assigned tasks being performed on time and on target. Without accountability, chaos and mistrust evolves. Yet, it is equally important that all of us operate with a universal permission, indeed a responsibility, to ask “why.”
Why ask why?
First, not every policy or procedure will cover every situation. Thus, ensuring that your team understands why we do things the way we do them helps each to make the many judgment calls necessary to operate the enterprise. Without the “why” it’s difficult to know how to address a unique circumstance. Without the “why” it’s virtually impossible to effectively delegate. As a result, every situation that is out of the ordinary would have to have an approval or worse, chaos would evolve. That doesn’t make for a very efficient or effective management methodology.
Equally as important, when we question why a particular task is necessary or the “why” behind a particular policy, process or methodology, we root out inefficiency. Why is this step in the process necessary? Why is this action part of my job, when the same action is performed elsewhere? Why are we doing this step at all? Indeed, I strongly believe that it is equally as important to understand what we should stop doing as it is to understand what we should be doing.
So, permission granted. It’s not only OK to ask “why,” it’s your responsibility as a leader to do so and to encourage your team to do so.