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Start With Why

I am admittedly a big fan of Simon Sinek.  If you have not heard of him I strongly suggest heading to Google and finding a Ted Talk and get acquainted with him.

His premise is that the most powerful question we can ask ourselves is Why.  He also maintains that before heading off in a certain direction it is smart to Start with Why.  If we cannot adequately answer the question perhaps the effort being contemplated should not be started?  

Think of the efficiency gains if that effort of going in a direction we shouldn't is saved for areas we should.

Sounds simple....well not as simple as what you might want.  It may take a few times asking Why before you reach a go/no-go conclusion.  Asking Why just once usually reveals a very simplistic answer.  

Ex. "Why are we going to introduce a new product line?" OR "Why are we increasing service level X?"  Answers on the first pass might include "We feel our customers would support the new line?  OR "We believe citizens want this increase."

If one were to proceed with only this initial answer and reasoning we might miss the following if we were to ask Why of the first responses.

Ex. "Why do we feel our customers would support the new line?"  might reveal the answer "Our competitor has had success with this new line."  Which leads to the next Why.

Ex. "Why has our competitor had success with the new line?"  might reveal the answer "Our competitor has an exclusive contract with celebrity Y to assist in the creation of and marketing of the new line."

You will see that new variables come into play when deciding whether to proceed with the new line.  Can we secure another celebrity to support our line?  Is there enough demand for the new line given our competitor is already in the market?  

The service example will be similar.

Ex. Let's ask "Why do we feel our citizens want an increase to this service?"  This may reveal an answer such as "Citizen satisfaction surveys suggest this area has had declining results for the past several years."

Ex. Taken further "Why do we feel the satisfaction survey results in this area have been declining?"  Answers could include "Open ended comments provided by citizens suggest they feel the service is too costly."

So, when we get to this point we must ask ourselves, since we are in the citizen service delivery world, is a service level increase really what is desired?  

It seems, after digging further, perhaps not.  Since the public is most concerned about the cost, we need to see what is driving our costs, is the service continuing to be relevant for our citizens (usage), is the service driving the results we want in our identified goals or is there a private entity that could provide the service, at a similar service level, in a more cost effective way?

Decision making is enhanced the further we go with the question Why.  Time is well spent making an effort to use the evidence around you (surveys, open ended comments, usage) to validate your recommendations.  In the end, make the best decisions based on really solid up front reasoning and logic.  Ask yourself Why - before What and How.

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