One of the funniest scenes ever was from the Pink Panther where Peter Sellers asks an innkeeper if his dog bites.   If you have not seen it, please watch and then come back, it will only take a minute.

Now that you laughed, you should have learned an important lesson.   When problem solving, are you asking the right questions? And are you solving the right problem?  Often I find developers never ask the right questions (good reason to have business analysts) they ask questions like “What do you want to see?” or “What do you do?” or “How do you do it?”   It is amazing how many times I am asked “why” and even I forgot to ask the user.   In fact there is a saying called “5 whys” which was developed  by Sakichi Toyoda for the Toyota Motor Corp.  It is also used by Six Sigma.

Asking why someone does something often gets to the root cause.  I am reminded of this a lot when taking my kids to the doctors when they have a cough.  They are usually given two medicines, one for the cough (the what) and often an antibiotic for the infection (the why.)   If you only solve the what, the root cause will persist, and the problem may never go away. In developing software, not solving the why gives the user not much better experience than he/she already has.

Why is not the only question to ask  But observe with your own eyes.  Sometimes you see what other have missed, and other times people are so “involved” with the symptoms they are missing the root cause.   Or in Peter Sellers case, he was making an assumption that the dog was the innkeepers, which apparently was wrong.  Don’t be afraid to ask anything you don’t know, and some things you do know to make sure.  Plenty of problems are solved simply by asking a question that may sound like every should know, but just haven’t asked.  Peter Sellers should have asked does this dog bite?   Anyway it gives me a great laugh to watch, and a reminder to make sure I ask the right questions, ask why over and over, and make sure I am solving the right problems.

My world famous disclaimer…  so, this blog has nothing to do about my current employer.  I provide the information without warranty blah blah blah. I make no money from this blog, there is no advertising, or charges to anyone.  I do this as a brain dump, to leave something behind.  If you want to support me, instead of doing that support one of the charities i care about, the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Hockey in Newark.  Thanks for reading.