I’ve written many times on the subject of using a model of what, why, and how as a method of working with customers and clients. Of the three words why is the most difficult. It’s also the one we tend to skip over and assume that we know the answer so we can just move on.
The first mistake with why is assuming we know the answer. I often will say to someone I think we both know the reason for your why, but could you just go over it one more time with me? I’ve learned that skipping this step and assuming I know the answer is often a mistake.
Before we move on with a project I believe it’s most important for both the client and myself to be absolutely clear why we’re working on something. I often feel uncomfortable asking what appears to be an obvious question. I also know that if I don’t ask the question we will move in a direction that really doesn’t get us to where the client wants to go.
I almost never stop with the first answer. When I ask why something is important, even if we both think we know the reason, I often will ask several follow up questions on the original question. The reason is the answer I usually get when I ask why something is important is actually what they want to do and not why. Or, if the answer is why it’s not specific enough for me to really understand the clients reasoning.
Having a very specific answer about why something is important helps in two ways. The first is that having a specific why allows us to know that we are working on the correct issue. The second is the more specific the answer to why is the more buy in and support I get from the people I’m working with.
I recently was working with a company about putting together a system for a two-way communication throughout the company. Our conversation was focusing on using either email or an intranet to accomplish this purpose. After our conversation was over I realized we never had a complete answer to why this was important. Without that answer we didn’t know if what we were trying to do or certainly how we were going to accomplish it was even close to correct.
I’m going to have to go back and re-visit why having two-way communication is important. The answer to why will help us with what it is we’re actually trying to accomplish. It’s the why that’s the key in this situation.
Remember it’s not what or how that’s important. It’s why we do things that are important. The best way to get to a good why is just continue asking the obvious questions that we think we know the answer to. If we do that, we’ll end up working more efficiently and get better results.
One of my favorite ways of communicating is through mind maps. I’ve put together several mind maps on various strategies that we use with our customers. Click on the button below and you’ll be brought to our mind map resource center. You’ll be able to choose various examples of maps and processes that we use.