Wednesday, January 6, 2010


There is a Six Sigma management technique that is used to identify the root cause of problems called "The Five Whys." You start with an issue and continue asking why until you get to what the problem really is. Doctrine has it that it was developed by a guy in Japan at Toyota. I implore that it was more than likely developed by the mom of an inquisitive toddler who recently learned the word, "why."

Earlier this week we were in the car and Bailey asked a question. I gave a response, and she said, "Why?"

We were so excited! She hit a developmental milestone! This is big news! We need to log this stardate!

Three days later, and we are wishing she'd learn a new favorite word already. Every question and response is now reduced to a one word response.

Bailey: I have pockets in my dress?
Me: No, sweetie, there are no pockets in that dress.
Bailey: Why?
Me: Because the dress didn't come with pockets.
Bailey: Why?
Me: Because they didn't sew any on when they made it.
Bailey: Why?
Me: Because they wanted to save fabric to sew more dresses.
Bailey: Why?
Me: Because the person that designed the dress didn't think you needed them.
Bailey: Why?
Me: Because clearly the person that designed the dress didn't have a two year old of their own.

This sort of dialog continues for 30 minutes at a time. I've now clearly identified the root cause to the lack of pockets in girls' dresses amongst dozens of other earth moving revelations.

Need to learn the answer to word peace? Want to know why your DVD player isn't working? Just ask a two year old. Chances are, she's got all of the right questions.


London said...

LOL! That is an interesting phase that all kids seem to hit. With Batman it's totally different. HE has an answer for everything. The other day I had to throw out all his sippy cup straws. He of course asked, "Why?" and I said, "Because they were dirty and I can't get them clean." He responded with, "Well, maybe you should use your imagination." Ohhh right, why didn't I think of that!

Joanna said...

LOL! I just had root cause training in December and we spent a while going over the Five Whys. I found it amusing that my multi-billion dollar corporation was advocating a diagnostic tool created by toddlers.

It also made me wonder if I could impose a limit of 5 Whys on Michael. (Clearly the answer is no).

Michelle said...

Hmmm green belt?

I love the whys. And even more, I love having moved past the whys. Fortunately, I was usually able to distract Mister Man (eventually - like after I explained the abolition of slavery) by asking him why HE thought something was. I didn't learn nearly quickly enough though! Good luck.

Kat said...

Great post! I remember the why phase with my oldest, and am still waiting on it with my youngest. :D When I had enough, what always worked was simple redirection. I changed the subject, or asked her to do something with me - as long as I put enough excitement in my voice about whatever I was trying to distract her with, it always worked and she'd stop for at least a few minutes. lol Great blog, have a good one!

Sherri Ruby said...

Hello. I'm new to your blog and I like reading your posts. This post about "Why" just made me smile.

When my kids asked the "Why" questions, (and I had enough or didn't know the answer anymore) I usually countered them with "Why do you think so?" This either made them use their heads and come up with some hilarious answers or it stopped that particular "Why" question!

Btw, your 2 little girls are adorable!

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April said...

Bridget - I am so glad you are blogging again! I have really missed all your witty posts. I miss all you guys from BBC! And ahhh....the why stage! Alana still hasn't moved past it...come to think of it - neither has Kirsten!!!