In his Thinking Faster blog, Jeffrey Phillips advocates the "ask why three times" approach as a method to gain deeper understanding of problems or challenges before you start working.
Phillips adds: "As you confront a challenge or a problem in which you lack expertise, gain understanding by a systematic evaluation and deconstruction of the challenge, the root causes and potential solutions. By gaining a deeper understanding of the symptoms and the root causes, your approach will become signifcantly clearer and you will be able to move more decisively and productively to address the challenge."
BOTTOMLINE: In Discipline V. Innovate Purposefully, there is a 5-Step Problem Solving exercise to help identify root causes. The technique involves is to ask "Why?" seven times to get to the root issue. After seven levels of "drill down," chances are pretty good that you're close to the real root cause. (Six Disciplines for Excellence, page 199)