Even though everything in business starts with the ‘Why’, without mastering the ‘How’, even the best teams end up being stuck at the ‘What’.
I am sure you have heard the first part of this sentence before. Figure out your ‘Why’, your north star, and everything flows from there. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen businesses go through their vision and mission creation exercise, spend lots of money on consultants and branding agencies to help them craft all that.
That’s where many organizations stop though, leaving the execution of it all to staff. Without a robust framework, it is likely to be a stressful and frustrating journey for all. And even if, let's say, the business adopted a solid execution framework (think OKRs - Objectives and Key Results - for example, used by Google and many other companies), it is not at all guaranteed success from there.
This is your organization’s north star. Why does the organization exist? What is it set out to achieve? What difference can it make that others can’t or won’t? This is where companies also look at their ‘personalities’ described as culture and their ‘beliefs’ as their values. Without knowing the ‘why’, I see little to no point in moving onto the mechanisms and details of execution.
You got the ‘why’ and now what? Any vision or grand idea without a way to execute remains just that, an idea. Putting the OKR system in place is what I have seen tech companies do, and others too, in order to be able to execute on the oftentimes audacious ideas and goals. Unless everyone is clear on the top priorities for the company and are also able to connect that with their own individual priorities, while keeping everyone accountable for the deliverables, not much will get done. Don’t get me wrong, people will be busy working on lots of impressive initiatives, but might find themselves jumping on new priorities every month or so. Even if you are in a startup, let me tell you one thing: being a startup doesn’t excuse or justify the ever-changing priorities that nobody can keep track of.
Nailed the ‘what’? Fantastic. Now, execution is great but it only gets you and the organization so far. Think of having people dynamics slowing the progress or even sabotaging it, or leadership teams behaving in a way that is not in line with the overall culture they set out to create. Or maybe misaligned incentives, personal agendas behind the scene, etc. Sounds familiar? Lots of subtleties and soft nuances that will eventually make the difference between a high performing organization and an average one.
Whenever I work with companies where there is a well-defined ‘why’ and the ‘what’ seems to be in a good place, however, there seems to be some challenges with going fast and becoming excellent, I look into the ‘how’. How do people work together? How do the leaders motivate and incentivize others? How much do people trust each other and their leaders? The list goes on.
While I believe that the ‘why’ is the foundation of everything, and that without a well-thought-through and implemented ‘what’ no vision will come true, my area of expertise and so focus is on the ‘how’. My goal is to share how I help leaders and teams become high-performing by pushing them to take a close and honest look at their ‘how’ and then by helping them take it to the next level. I have developed a framework, the ‘6 Styles of Speed’, that does just that. But let me dive into that in my next post.
For now, the one thought I want to leave you with is the importance of looking at each of the three elements of the golden circle with equal importance: your organization's why, what and how.