A recent issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review has a great article on asking “why?” in a corporate setting, as opposed to blindly acting or making assumptions. They also outline the most common reasons why this doesn’t happen:
The action bias: Deadlines are always approaching, so teams often leap into action before the problem is fully identified and assessed.
The familiar solution: “Well, I guess we’ll do what we always do.”
Myopic view of the cause: It’s tempting to assume a single, easily identifiable factor is the cause of a given problem.
Unresolved conflict: Most company cultures are such that disagreements on direction can’t be resolved in the conference room, though they are voiced at the water cooler immediately afterwards.
A hidden agenda: On occasion, a single small subgroup can push an effort forward that doesn’t benefit the wider organization.
Other distractions: Many teams are simply moving too fast to think clearly and recognize higher level issues. If you’re driving 100 mph and spinning out in every corner, you can’t think ahead. You’re just reacting, hoping to avoid a crash.
The article is full of great anecdotes, though my favorite is the story of the Oregon state highway engineers using dynamite to remove the carcass of a gray whale from a beach in a tourist area. This did not work well, but they used dynamite because it was their go-to solution for removing boulders from the road (#2 above).