An “after action review” considers what was supposed to happen and what actually happened. The third question is “why was there a difference?”
If you study “lean management” very much, you learn that “asking why” is an intricate investigative and learning technique. Done appropriately, it drives you to a deeper understanding of your task and a developed plan of action.
A popular lean technique is to “ask why 5 times.” The idea is that when we ask “why”, we frequently will arrive at an answer that isn’t complete. We ask why and stop with the first plausible solution. Frequently, the initial answer to why is only partly so.
I had a medical issue awhile back. Two different doctors came up with a similar answer to “why” my condition existed. I accepted it and was moving along.
Some medical friends of mine knew about my situation and said they were concerned that the answer I had received wasn’t complete. They suggested I dig deeper.
I went to a third doctor. He said that while he was inclined to believe the assessments of the other two, there were several more tests he could run to rule out more issues.
He ran the tests. The results were surprising. Turned out that I had a condition that if I left it unattended could be life threatening. I often wondered what would have happened if I hadn’t dig deeper.
Not all of our inquiries into why are “life and death”. But, when our inquiries into why outcomes differ from what we expect are superficial, we land on solutions that are bandaids rather than cures.
When things are different than expected, pause for why. Involve others in the discussion. Go beyond the first impression by asking why more than once.