You often hear people say they need to know all about an idea before they can decide to engage with it or not.
A common approach is “the five W’s” to determine If and How…
“Who, What, Where, When, Why and How” may be generically useful, but the order is far more important than many utters of this throw-away line realise.
What, Where, When, and How are sub-servant to Who, which is completely determined by Why we need to act.
If we start with WHY, we understand the desired outcomes. In a well considered “Conversation that Matters” reflecting on WHY first defines the intangible and tangible REASONS for acting. Reflecting on WHY we explore the value that comes from the decision and actions and we consider the relative priority of how we invest our time to deliver the most important outcomes. Without pausing to discuss relative priorities, we can quickly sink into the mire of “just doing” because we are focused on being seen to be active (an unfortunate approach to perception management in modern organisations… as opposed to the alternative of acting in strategic and sustainable ways using evidence based decision-making as a guide).
An effective leader engages their team with a series of exploratory questions to understand why…
They challenge relative benefits of a range of options and leverage the diversity of views available to them to make better informed decisions before acting.
This can be done quite quickly- even in minutes in some cases. Done well it does not cause procrastination or lead to group-think.
Once you know WHY your initiative is a worthy of priority, you will then know WHO should be involved and ONLY then can you determine WHAT should be done. With a clear vision around Why, Who and What, the How, when and where become much more obvious. The path towards more success more often is paved with a series of stepping stones in a specific order:
WHY provides the value and priority
WHO provides the knowledge and expertise to get the WHAT right.
Once we have value and people sorted, we can then look at processes (How and When) and supporting tools How, When and Where).
Too often people muddle the order of the conversation and start with a tool or process and end up doing many things that do not add value, or worse, deflect critical resources away from activities that wold have added value.
Simply asking WHY in a constructive way (with appropriately aligned behaviour) can bring priority back into informed decision-making and enhance individual, team and organisational performance.
Is there sufficient trust in your organisational culture to engage in this way?