The Importance of What’s Missing’s

It’s time to try a new approach with project planning.  During my college years, my journalism and media class professors taught the  5 W’s  This acronym stood for who, what, where, when, why and how. This concept can be transferred to developing and planning out projects and tasks.

The  5 W’s (and the h) are great project development questions. Think about the 5 W’s from a missing perspective

  • Who we do not need
  • What should we not include
  • Where are we not going: This may begin to help you set limits.
  • When are we not doing this: This gives you time off to do other things or may set a deadline for you and your project.
  • Why aren’t we doing this: This question when taken from a missing perspective, may actually tell you not to do the task. Conversely the question “Why aren’t we doing this?”  may help you think about the tasks from a delegating point of view.
  • How not to do this:  Looking from the missing “how” viewpoint, we might determine not to proceed without certain expertise or knowledge.

The W’s – A Brief History

The W’s have been around for centuries. The Arte of Rhetorique by Thomas Wilson, discusses the Seven Circumstances and also puts them in meter form. Thomas may have been influenced by Greek or Roman philosophers treaties on oratory and rhetorical style. In the middle ages a form of the 5 W’s was used extensively by priests in consideration for religious confessions. In the 1880’s they were used by William Cleaver Wilkinson, a Baptist preacher and professor of theology. He used the three W’s as a method of bible study.  Wilkinson’s three W’s were included in Henry Clay Trumbull’s book Teaching and Teachers – The Sunday-School Teacher’s Teaching Work published in 1888. Henry Clay Trumbull does not credit Wilkinson for the creation of the three W’s but stated Wilkinson was a “venerable authority”.

In 1902, Rudyard Kipling immortalized the five  (plus the H) in his 1902 Elephant Child Poem.

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

I think world traveler, Rudyard Kipling may have heard a variation of the three W’s when he visited upstate New York or  the Chautauqua Assembly towns for a period of time in the 1890’s. He might have heard them when he resided in Vermont and played golf with a Congregational Minister.

The 5 W’s were picked up as a journalism device in the early 1900’s.


If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my earlier post on The More I Know the Less I Know.



Filed under Books to Read, Business Marketing Strategies, Client Management Strategies, Communication Strategies, Knowledge, Productivity, Terms, Thinking

2 responses to “The Importance of What’s Missing’s

  1. Ohh so it was Rudyard Kipling that bought this “W” is original world in power .Thanks for this information .
    In ancient Indian philosophy we do say that the value of a thing { person, book or thought} is only known when its not their ., its missing .

  2. Hi Sudeep,

    Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem but the W’s go back a long way. It would be interesting to find out how he actually learned about them.

    The philosophy of things value remind me of the Blue String Paradox. See my earlier post in December of 2008 –
    The Blue String Paradox

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