Getting to the root of a problem can at times be more difficult than you might think. Why can’t I recruit more students? Why is my college cutting my funding? Why is my student pilot dropout rate so high? How come I cannot pass my solo? These are questions you may have asked yourself as a CFI, dean of an aviation college, or student pilot. On the surface, it might seem like the reason for many problems in the aviation industry is do to a lack of cash or time. However if you spend some time to really think about the root of these problems you may discover that the actual causes are quite different.
Using a system called “The Five Whys” can uncover the true root cause of any problem. The name of this system was derived from the inquisitive method many young children use when they ask, “Why is the Sky Blue.” The basic idea of this methodology is to ask the question “Why?” 5 times over to uncover a problems true root cause.
Taiichi Ohno, the creator of the Toyota Production System is the mind behind this strategy…
“WHEN CONFRONTED WITH A PROBLEM, HAVE YOU EVER STOPPED AND ASKED WHY FIVE TIMES? IT IS DIFFICULT TO DO EVEN THOUGH IT SOUNDS EASY.”
Let’s use the example of a collegiate aviation program losing funding from its college.
1. WHY IS THE COLLEGE CUTTING THE AVIATION PROGRAMS FUNDING?
Because our program does not bring in enough revenue to adequately contribute to the colleges growth strategy.
2. WHY DOESN’T OUR PROGRAM BRING IN ENOUGH REVENUE?
Because we cannot get enough students to apply to the program.
3. WHY CAN’T WE GET ENOUGH STUDENTS TO APPLY TO THE PROGRAM?
Because we do not have a good student outreach/recruitment strategy.
4. WHY DO WE NOT HAVE A GOOD RECRUITMENT/OUTREACH STRATEGY?
Because we do not have the proper resources needed to implement such a strategy.
5. WHY DON'T WE HAVE THE NEEDED RESOURCES?
Because the current resources we do have, have not been trained on the strategy we implemented to recruit our students, or we have not hired the needed resource to design a solid recruitment plan.
You can see how the answers to the final few questions could differ depending on your organization. Regardless of how you answer, the process of asking “Why?” forces you to take a hard look at the problem and really understand the drivers behind it. By uncovering the basis of your problem you are arming yourself with the knowledge you need to attack and solve the issue.
The lean manufacturing design of the Toyota Production System is one of the greatest improvements to the auto industry. It was built on this very same scientific approach…