Leaders need to shift their focus from “What”​ to “Why”​

Great execution is essential to any business. You can have a wonderful plan in place, but if it doesn’t manifest into action, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. However, with all of our focus on action, leaders often skip investing time in thoroughly examining why we’re taking action in the first place. Are your tactics the right ones to achieve the organization’s objectives, or is it just a matter of keeping up the image that something’s getting done, whether useful or not?

Often times when a plan is created, there is a proverbial cut-off point – the point where it’s done, and we simply now need to execute. This usually manifests as a list of activities, such as “create a campaign” or “develop a training program”. The problem is, we’re missing the “why”. That undefined middle ground connects the plan to outcomes. The “campaign” or the “training program” isn’t the real outcomes – they are the mechanism to achieve a more specific, measurable goal.

There have been countless plans which have 100,000-foot objectives, such as “increase share in the millennial market by 15%” or “shorten the sales cycle from 60 to 30 days”. While all wonderful and lofty, success isn’t simply about setting the right goals, but understanding that next level “why”. The “why” provides the framework for selecting the ideal “how” – such as that marketing campaign or training program.

For example, if the organization’s leaders have determined “shortening the sales cycle” is the goal, jumping to tactics misses the opportunity to tackle the “why” – why does the problem exist today? Digging into the details instead of diving into the execution of a possible solution, examining the “why” helps you determine causes, catalysts, impediments, and roadblocks. It helps you better understand where the biggest areas of concern are within the goal. It helps you create a better approach to attack the problem, rather than implementing tactics that may or may not tie to the core of the issue or objective.

Don’t forget the successful execution of any plan or strategy requires strong knowledge of the background and context of the objective – the “why”. Without it, tactics will be selected based on simplicity, cost, or familiarity – none of which may actually get you to your goal. And shortcutting the process doesn’t make things go faster, it simply causes you to throw good money after bad.

Andrea Olson
Andrea Olsen

About the Author

Andrea Belk Olson is a speaker, author, applied behavioral scientist, and customer-centricity expert. As the CEO of Pragmadik, she helps organizations of all sizes, from small businesses to Fortune 500, and has served as an outside consultant for EY and McKinsey. Andrea is the author of The Customer Mission: Why it’s time to cut the $*&% and get back to the business of understanding customers, No Disruptions: The future for mid-market manufacturing, and her upcoming book, What To Ask, coming in June 2022.

She is a 4-time ADDY® award winner and host of the popular Customer Mission podcast. Her thoughts have been continually featured in news sources such as Chief Executive MagazineEntrepreneur MagazineThe Financial BrandSMPS Marketer, Rotman Magazine, and more. Andrea is a sought-after keynote speaker at conferences and corporate events throughout the world. She is a visiting lecturer and startup coach at the University of Iowa, a TEDx presenter, and TEDx speaker coach. She is also a mentor at the University of Iowa Venture School.

More information is also available on www.pragmadik.com and www.andreabelkolson.com.

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