Why, What, How

New Thinking for the Engineering Community

by Dr. Mike Shipulski

Why, What, HowSometimes we engineers know the answer before the question, sometimes we know the question’s wrong before it’s asked, and sometimes we’re just plain pig-headed. And if we band together, there’s no hope of changing how things are done. None. So, how to bring new thinking to the engineering community? In three words: WHAT, WHY, HOW.

WHY – Don’t start with WHAT. If you do, we’ll shut down. You don’t know the answer, we do. And you should let us tell you. Start with WHY. Give us the context, give us the problem, give us the business fundamentals, give us the WHY. Let us ask questions. Let us probe. Let us understand it from all our angles. Don’t bother moving on. You can’t. We need to kick the tires to make sure we understand WHY. (It does not matter if you understand WHY. We need understand it for ourselves, in our framework, so we can come up with a solution.)

WHAT – For God’s sake don’t ask HOW – it’s too soon. If you do, we’ll shut down. You don’t know the answer, we do. And, if you know what’s good for you, you should let us tell you. It’s WHAT time. Share your WHAT, give us your rationale, explain how your WHAT follows logically from your WHY, then let us ask questions. We’ll probe like hell and deconstruct your WHY-WHAT mapping and come up with our own, one that makes sense to us, one that fits our framework. (Don’t worry, off-line we’ll test the validity of our framework, though we won’t tell you we’re doing it.) We’ll tell you when our WHY-WHAT map holds water.

HOW – Don’t ask us WHEN! Why are you in such a hurry to do it wrong?! And for sanity’s sake, don’t share your HOW. You’re out of your element. You’ve got no right. Your HOW is not welcome here. HOW is our domain – exclusively. ASK US HOW. Listen. Ask us to explain our WHAT-HOW mapping. Let us come up with nothing (that’s best). Let us struggle. Probe on our map, push on it, come up with your own, one that fits your framework. Then, and only then, share how your HOW fits (or doesn’t) with ours. Let us compare our mapping with yours. Let us probe, let us question, let us contrast. (You’ve already succeeded because we no longer see ours versus yours, we simply see multiple HOWs for consideration.) We’ll come up with new HOWs, hybrid HOWs, all sorts of HOWs and give you the strengths and weaknesses of each. And if your HOW is best we’ll recommend it, though we won’t see it as yours because, thankfully, it has become ours. And we’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen. Engineering has new thinking.

Whether it’s my favorite new thinking (product simplification) or any other, the WHY, WHAT, HOW process works. It works because it’s respectful of our logic, of our nature. It fits us.

Though not as powerful a real Vulcan mind meld, WHY, WHAT, HOW is strong enough to carry the day.

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Mike ShipulskiDr. Mike Shipulski (certfied TRIZ practioner) brings together the best of TRIZ, Axiomatic Design, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (2006 DFMA Contributer of the Year), and lean to develop new products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

Mike Shipulski




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