Root Cause of Performance

After being closed for several weeks, getting to the root cause of your store performance will be vital to achieving the results you want.  This blog will focuses on getting to the root cause by using the 5 whys.  

As brick and mortar stores are finally reopening after the COVID pandemic, we are facing an uphill battle.  We need our associates to feel safe at work; customers need to feel safe while shopping and the store experience has to motivate them to spend.  Traffic is down but that doesn’t mean you can’t deliver results.  It does mean you have to evaluate store performance and know what levers to pull to get results.  

It is so easy to accept whatever results are achieved and chalk it up to COVID.  This post isn’t meant to undermine the impact CIVID is having on retail, it is meant to ensure we aren’t leaving any volume on the table and that we are maximizing the in-store experience and team behaviors to achieve the best results possible.  

We must deliver a brand experience that connects with our associates and our customers in a way we never have before.  Last week I published a blog about creating Wow Customer Experiences, and it wasn’t the traditional customer experience, like your selling model, it was broken down into the 3 F’s – First Impression, Functional Experience and Feeling (a customer gets shopping in your store).

I first learned these as Technical, Functional and Brand components of the customer experience but what writer doesn’t want to create easy ways to remember things?  If you haven’t read the blog, you owe it to yourself to do so before reading on. 

Branding…what does it have to do with anything?

A brand lives or dies by the emotional connection it makes with a customer or an associate.

Where did the word “brand” come from?  From what I could find in my research, it started with branding cattle!  By branding the cattle, the rancher told the world who owned that cattle.  Look at Circle K Farms, they branded their cattle with their logo telling the world they had the best beef around.

We use the term ‘brand’ to describe who we are, what we stand for.  Our brand is our reputation.  

Get to the Root Cause of Performance Issues

Your team must represent your brand with the passion and fervor that you have.  This drives both sales results  and customer loyalty.  What happens if the team isn’t achieving results in your absence?  How do you know what the experience was like? What steps do you take to understand the results?

With COVID, we know some things for sure.  First, that traffic is down as customers cautiously begin to leave their home.  Two, that unemployment is up causing less discretionary spending.  There are also facts that say if customers are out shopping, they have fairly high intent to buy.  They want to treat themselves to something after being cooped up and dealing with the emotion of COVID.  That means conversion should be UP.  

When is the last time you heard your team say, “it was so slow”?  It is less about how many people walked in the door and more about what you did with the customers who did.  Looking at your metrics will tell you a lot about what happened.  

One of my favorite ways to dig into results is to ask questions to the team who was working.  This approach will be especially helpful for store managers to use after having a day off. 

5 Whys to solve Root Cause of Performance 

To get to the root cause, you’ve got to ask questions.  My favorite way to get to the root cause of performance is to ask the “5 whys”.  It is just what is sounds like.  It is asking “why” at least 5 times, after each response you simply ask why again.  Normally, a counter measure will become apparent.  

A counter measure, instead of an instant solution, looks for a way to prevent the problem from happening again. 

So often we address symptoms and not the root cause.  When this happens, performance doesn’t change.  But when we get to the root cause of an issue, performance will change.  

How to Conduct the 5 Whys

Start by identifying what problem you want to dig into.  Here is how to go about digging into the problem using the 5 whys:

1. Assemble the team/managers working and ask why they aren’t achieving a result.

This might sound simple and obvious but they should take some time and give it some thought.  The answers should be grounded in FACTS, not guessing what might be happening.  

Your managers may come up with several plausible reasons.  

TIP:  As you are responding to the “why” question, fight the urgent to come up with solutions.  

2.  Ask “why?” 4 more times

Each time, you will phrase the question in response to the answer you just heard.

3. Know when to Stop

Once the “why” questions no longer yield responses, you will know you cannot go any further and you should stop asking why and start looking for solutions. 

4.  Address the Root Cause

Ok, so now you figured out the root cause.  Time to put a plan together on measures you can take to address the issue!  

5.  Monitor Progress

Once a plan is in place, its needs to be monitored and followed up on.  Don’t allow it to be the flavor of the week or month.  Get after it and follow up with each member of the leadership team.

What does Follow Up Look Like

It can be so easy to put a plan into place and then assume the team is executing as agreed upon.  Truth is, it doesn’t normally work this way.  Asking the team specific questions about performance, actions being taken and lessons learned are all key to driving the result.

It’s your Turn

Is there something happening that you are scratching your head, trying to get to the root cause of why it is happening?  Why not try the 5 Whys to get to the root cause of performance?  If you get stuck, reach out to me at  

In your Corner,

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