“Why” is The question

This is an opinion piece. Our arguments in favor of developing an organizational culture of open questions and intentional conversations are based on our own professional experience.

If there is a question that we must ask of ourselves, our teams, and organizations, that is “why.” Asking why comes easily to children, because their world seems new and their minds are filled with curiosity. With time and experience, we shed away our whys. We think we have all the answers.

Why is it a mistake to stop asking why?

  • Because, the world, circumstances, and contexts are constantly changing.
  • Because agile leaders and teams must remain curious and inquisitive about their changing world.

Asking “why” is a humbling experience. It leaves space open for new discoveries, new opportunities. It also uncovers, defines, or transforms the reasons behind everything we do or shouldn’t do.

It is also a practice. To get better at asking why and modeling our teams to do so we have to keep asking the question every day. Agile leaders and teams do not shy away from placing themselves out of their comfort zone and in a position of exponential learning.

“Why” leads to intentional conversations about the way you do what you do and how you do it, what impact does it have on your life, your work, your bigger picture, your ambitions, and that of your team. These “conversations” should be personal reflections as well as “team” or group-led exercises.

Here are a few examples of “why” questions as prompts for intentional conversations:

  • Why did this team come together?
  • Why is this project relevant to the organization?
  • Why are these individual tasks and metrics relevant to the project?
  • Why is my contribution to the project and the team a significant step on my learning path?

As agile leaders, we must encourage our teams and each individual within a team to engage in intentional conversations as a habit, and as part of team activities.

We cultivate intentional conversations and self-reflection by fostering safe spaces, where respect, kindness, compassion, empathy, and open-mindedness are modeled, recognized, and rewarded.

Coaching our leaders and teams to rekindle an intimate, uninhibited, experimental, communicative, and collective sense of curiosity is what moves organizations, teams and, people forward.

Are you asking “why” and leading your team to ask “why” on a daily basis? What is refraining you from asking the question? If what’s keeping you from asking is fear of the answer, try reframing the dynamic from an agile perspective. Let’s use the examples above:

  • Why did this team come together?
    • Answer: “we don’t know.”
    • Next step: clarity.
    • Develop a “discovery” activity in which the objectives of the team get clear and defined.
  • Why is this project relevant to the organization?
    • Answer: “we don’t believe it is.”
    • Next step: Paint the Big picture.
    • Develop an “aligning” activity in which the team can assess the relevance of the project or the project may be adjusted to better align with the organization’s goals and values.
  • Why are these individual tasks and metrics relevant to the project?
    • Answer: “they are not.”
    • Next step: Small Wins.
    • Develop a “review & refocus” activity in which the team will go over the process, tasks, and metrics together to better fit the backlog to the project’s goals and metrics.
  • Why is my contribution to the project and the team a significant step on my learning path?
    • Answer: “there’s no significance to my contribution / I’m not contributing.”
    • Next step: Self-Assessment & Review Learning Goals.
    • Set up a one-on-one coaching session to revise the team member/employee’s learning path, his or her learning goals, assessment of her or his role and contributions to the team, and align personal/professional goals with the completion of the project.

Asking “why” is the pivotal question for agile leaders and teams. “Why” is the vision and the purpose. It’s what gives meaning to what we do and what inspires how we do it.

Embrace and encourage child-like curiosity in your teams every day! Agility depends on it.

@myagilehr

Recommended book: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek.

Agile & Co. is an HR & Comms. Consulting Firm, with a focus on People & Culture that embraces an agile mindset and management style. It serves small businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs, offering coaching, mentoring, or consultation, to assist in the co-creation, development, and transformation of their organizational flow and people experience, in a humanized, collaborative and agile way. Follow @myagilehr #agileforbiz #agileforlife

3 Replies to ““Why” is The question”

  1. […] How is my work and my approach relevant? Do I have a clear “why”. […]

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  2. […] leaders and teams need a purpose outside […]

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  3. […] As the leader, you voice the vision and paint the picture for others along the way, but ownership of the vision must be felt by all. Every member of the team must feel a sense of connection to the vision and understand how his individual and collective contribution is reflected in that vision.  […]

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