Why is a risky question in a retro.

Can you imagine a situation when you were a teenager? You had promised to come home no later than 10 pm on Friday. You know that you are hours past the deadline when returning home that night. Trying to sneak in through the door is useless because dad is sitting there at the kitchen table waiting for you. You didn’t even pick his calls this time.

“Why are you late?!” he asks in a deep voice. And you know that there is trouble ahead.
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‘Why’ is a question which tends to kick off a series of explanations instead of the true reasons.

In a much different setting, it evokes reasons like there was too little time to get started. The tools did not work, and our business process is the real problem. The organization does not support our efforts enough. The political state of the world is unstable. And it was raining like hell, and the traffic was terrible too. The reasons seem to fall outside of our control after asking the question of why.

What if, instead of asking the deep why, dad chose another way? You enter the door at midnight again. But this time he smiles gently.

“Hey there. I was worried” he starts “What was it about tonight that was so important to you, that you were willing to sacrifice our cooperation this way?”

The tone changes immediately. In skilled hands the ‘What’ becomes a question that eventually guides us to the true source of the ‘Why.’