Rudyard Kipling, the 19th century journalist, poet and adventurer immortalised a set of questions to help trigger ideas and solve problems when he included them in a poem he wrote for his children:
I keep six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who….
These questions can help you obtain a better understanding of many situations. They are considered essential to basic information-gathering and are often used in journalism, research and police investigations. They represent a formula for getting the complete story on a subject and importantly none of them can be answered with a simple yes or no. This means that answering them requires thought. They are useful questions to ask when trying to analyse a business problem.
• Who is involved?
• What happens?
• When does it take place?
• Where does it take place?
• Why does the problem/process/activity happen?
• How did it happen?
Using the six honest men can prove a simple way to help you better understand what has happened or is happening or what you would like to happen.
A similar set of questions is the five Ms which can also be useful to help you plan something that you would like to happen. Unlike the six honest men they focus mainly on resources:
· Men – what skills and knowledge are required?
· Machines – what equipment do we need?
· Materials – what materials will be used?
· Money – how much will it cost and how much is it worth?
· Method – how can we actually do it?
Use these simple questions next time you are trying to understand what happened when something went wrong (or right) or are trying to plan something that you want to happen. They will help you put some structure around your challenge and could help you get a better understanding of how to make things work the way you want them to.
If you want to dig deeper into your problem or challenge then read Part 2 of this blog: How a child can help improve your business.