If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there - Lewis Carroll

It doesn’t matter whether I’m working with Entrepreneurs, Executives or Business Owners the question WHY always comes up at some stage. The context normally arises when we begin to look at what drives the individual or company to do what they do, or don’t do. Without knowing WHY you do, or don’t do something can have disastrous results, yet the situation can be easily resolved by using such a small but powerful word – WHY.

To get to the root of the reason of using WHY I want to explore what WHY means.

Encarta defines it as:
“An adverb used to ask or talk about the reason, purpose, or cause of something.”

“A request for an evidential reason.”

Chambers English Dictionary
“For what cause or reason, on which account?”

For me the key aspect of WHY is in the reason something is done, or not done. Why? I’d like to answer by sharing an example of some client work (whilst the work is real I’ve changed the names and type of business).

John and Janet set up a limited company within the property management sector. They had discussed and agreed the Director roles they would cover before they set up the company and decided what area they wanted to cover. These decisions in themselves were unusual as in the vast majority of cases they either happen by accident or as a result of later thought!

They started work and the company began to grow quickly. Within the first year they had a number of properties across the region as well as a number in out-lying areas. As they moved into the second year a number of issues began to arise: one partner was fast acting and took very quick decisions, whilst the other took longer and spent more time thinking about what needed to be done; planning was haphazard and poorly focused; both partners were spending more time travelling as they took on more properties in other areas; communications deteriorated. By the time I became involved they were consistently struggling to manage.

After assessing the business plan and completing some initial team role and individual profiles I asked them separately WHY they had set up the business. The couple thought they had the same reasons but after discussion we found that they were significantly different. As we explored the reasons in more depth we found that the effort and passion they had put into the work was consistent but they had a very different view of the destination they were aiming for.

John wanted to build the company up quickly and sell on at a profit because he wanted to invest in something else within 5 years. This was why he took quick decisions and had begun to take on properties out with the agreed area. Janet on the other hand had a different view. She wanted to build the company up into a quality branded name which they could then hand over to a Managing Director and take a back step and enjoy the income.

Both people were working hard but they were heading in a completely different direction. It was only by asking the question WHY that we discovered the reasons for those differences.

However, there was more to come. By using a Cascade of WHYs we got to understand the real reason s WHY John and Janet were doing what they were doing, or not.

The Cascade of WHYs is easy to use. After each answer you ask the question WHY? Continue the process until you reach a point where the answer remains the same.

In John and Janet’s situation we found that the initial answers were similar – both wanted the company to make profit. Asking WHY profit? led us to the next level that began to show the differences between the couple. John wanted profit so he could invest in a range of businesses each being bigger and bigger, and all in different sectors. Janet, however, wanted profit so that they could expand the present business and create a legacy.

Continued WHYs led us to identifying the underlying drivers, beliefs and values of each person:

• John wanted excitement and didn’t think about the longer term view.
• Janet wanted long term security and stability.

We all have underlying values and beliefs that drive us to do want we want, or don’t want. If these values and beliefs are in conflict, and we’re not aware of them then difficulties arise. These difficulties can include procrastination, poor decision making, poor time management, poor communications with others, etc. If we spend time understanding what they are and where they come from then we can invest the time and energy in activities that will lead us to where we really want to get to, and in a far shorter time scale.

In John and Janet’s case, now that we could see the differences between their relative positions we developed an action plan that was based on an agreed understanding of where they wanted to get to as well as an individualised plan.

The use of WHY is not restricted to individuals, it is as, if not more, powerful when used in a company context.

The most important part of the definition of the word WHY is the reason (or outcome) of the action.

Without knowing the reason for doing, or not doing something then whatever you do may, or may not get you to where you want to get to, that is, if you actually know where it is you want to get to. All clear?

Using the WHY cascade technique will enable you to become very clear on what drives you and how best to maximize your time and effort in moving forward. It provides clarity of purpose and a very specific focus on a future destination point for you (and/or the business).

Author's Bio: 

I'm a passionate people developer, adaptive behavior specialist, great listener, challenger, traveler, creative solutions generator, writer and avid net worker