Why before How

“Why?” is the children’s question that we too often grow out of asking. I suppose kids get shushed enough or stump their elders to frustration so often that it becomes uncomfortable to keep asking it.

But we ought to ask Why regularly. Ask our bosses our elders our leaders our peers and kindred spirits.

“Why exactly do we do this or do it this way…?”
“Can you remind me again what we’re hoping to accomplish?”
“Why do we exist as an organization?”
“Why, again, are we meeting? What’s the purpose, the desired outcome?”
“What are we about?”

If it’s asked with sincerity, snark-free, the Why question just might spark a fresh perspective that clarifies everything, that cuts through the clutter and distraction.

We tend to default to How before ever even asking Why.

Peter Drucker said: “Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.”

Answering How questions is crucial to “doing things right”, but it’s Why that will make sure you’re doing the “right things”.

A genuine answer to the Why might be painful, might make the effort moot. But it would be better to abandon and redirect toward a more meaningful Why, right?

Embrace the Why like a relentless 5-year-old with a curiosity problem. Figure out the Why then follow the How to previously unimagined possibilities.

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