They don’t let you touch the bananas? Wonder why?

“I don’t know why, but this is how we have always done it!”

Does this statement sound familiar? It has to be!! A statement that makes me want to giggle every time I hear it. Below is my favorite ‘5 monkeys’ video that helps articulate the severity and the impact of the “I don’t know” statement in any organization.

“Why don’t we have a sales at the point of service program (SPOS)? Our competitors are doing it and expanding their market share”
“Well, our COO does not want it but I don’t know why though”

“Why are we not implementing an automated work force management process in our organization instead of using the manual spreadsheets?”
“I don’t know, but this is how we have always done it”

“Why don’t we move to quarterly budget forecasting model instead of an annual process to improve headcount planning and to incorporate market & economical changes?”
“Well, I am not comfortable in changing the process”
“OK, but why?, What are you feeling uncomfortable about. Is the annual process more effective than quarterly?”
“I don’t know but I am just not comfortable. This is how we have been doing it since 2004, lets not change it”

Organizations that have sustained their leadership in the market place for extended periods have one thing in common. Their workforce have a clear or at least a high level understanding of “Why” things are the way they are and when things change, they get to understand “why” it changed. (to a large extent. With exceptions, obviously). Or at least the ones who own a specific process know “why” the process is designed the way it is and there is a constant review mechanism to evaluate the relevancy of the process to the customer or market eco system.

How does an organization avoid the “monkeys getting beaten up for trying to get to the banana situation?”

Not rocket science, just a simple structured approach by mid-senior level management with commitment from executives is all what it takes. Below are 3 high level levers required to enable the “why” mindset:


  1. Central change governance forum :A structured forum at each organizational unit level where respective unit’s changes are reviewed and approved by a governing body to ensure that the “why”s behind the changes are reviewed and understood by process owners and senior leadership.
  2. Central process documentation repository:All processes are documented in a standardized format with version controls and detailed contexts behind the structure of a specific process or a specific decision on the operating procedure with access to all relevant audience.
  3. Change communication process:Every change in a process, product, strategy, plan is communicated to the larger organization electronically wit an emphasis on the context and the “why” behind the change. New employee trainings on product and process is not just focused on the “What” content but has the corresponding “Whys” clearly communicated.

And above all, it’s valuing the “why” and incorporating “why” as an integral part of your organizational culture. Give room for your employees to ask “Why” and make a conscious effort to communicate the context.

As a leader, emphasize on the “whys” & the “how’s” in every interaction with your workforce beyond just the  “what’s”. You will be amazed at the difference this generates in the output of your organization.

That’s it for now…I need a break, let me go get a banana smoothie!!!

About the Author: For more information, contact Balakarthik Venkataramanan at LinkedIn Profile:

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