The One Question That Could Save You Millions

February 3, 2017

By Laurie Clarke, Chief Operating Officer

James Diedrich Photography

James Diedrich Photography

The Case of Jefferson Memorial

Everyone knew the cause of deteriorating marble on the Jefferson Memorial: too much detergent.

What was up for debate was what to do about it.

In our experience, regardless of the size or nature of the organization, there is a common trend we see when a group
of people are informed of a problem. They immediately start thinking of solutions to fix it.

In the case of Jefferson Memorial, some solutions were:

Change the detergent. Wash the marble less frequently. Encase the memorial in glass. Enclose the memorial and set
hours each day for visitation. Etc.

But then, thanks to one inquisitive woman, the pace to solve slowed down.

One woman said, “But why is there the sudden need to clean the Memorial more frequently?  What changed?”

This is where things got good. Everyone shifted gears. Now, people were not thinking of solutions. They were trying
to find the root cause to an existing outcome. They got into a battle of question and answer.

Question: Why did it need to be washed so much?
Answer: Too many bird droppings.

Question: Why so many sparrows?
Answer: Lots of nice juicy spiders to eat.

Question: Why so many spiders all of a sudden?
Answer: Clouds of midges fall into the webs.

Question: Why so many midges?
Answer: A recent cost saving program changed out the lightbulbs illuminating the Memorial.  The cheaper bulbs emitted a different frequency, which attracted the midges.


Switch the bulbs and no more midges, spiders, sparrows, bird droppings, or need for frequent washing, which
means no more deteriorating marble.

Not so obvious was it?

Who would have thought that the root cause was the new lightbulbs attracting midges and only cost 69 cents to fix?

Dig into the why hiding behind the first why.  The answers, and therefore the solutions, are simpler there.

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