For the parent of any 4+ year old child, it’s the one word that drives you crazy… Why? Why is the sun yellow? Why do giraffes have long necks? Why do I have to go to bed now? The more I work in and around change programmes, the more I find myself having to channel my own inner child.

All too often I work alongside teams who are focused purely on ‘milestones and outputs’ rather than ‘outcomes’. The team set up to run the programme “knows the business inside out”, “knows what we need to do”. With do being the operative word. Everything is focused on hitting the milestones and ticking off the deliverables. Few key individuals genuinely take a step back to look at the bigger picture and really understand what the outcome of the change will or needs to be – emotionally, behaviourally or culturally. Or whether those deliverables are really going to deliver the change needed. They can inform everyone about ‘what’ they’re doing but are incapable of really communicating and engaging people about ‘why’ it’s needed and what it will ultimately achieve.

That’s why I become that inquisitive 4+ year old whenever I begin a new client engagement. Continually asking clients and key stakeholders ‘Why?’, until we’ve stripped back all the underlying beliefs and assumptions to clarify what the change is really all about. A bit like peeling back the layers of an onion, but hopefully without the tears.

The following questions are usually a good starting place:

1. Why change? Understanding the broader commercial or operational context driving the change in the first place – moving away from the outputs and getting a real feel for the bigger picture.

2. Why these specific changes? Why these particular process or system changes? Why will these changes help deliver the outcomes needed rather than any others? After all, people drive change when they’re clear on what it means for them so why will this way of working be better than how they work today?

3. Why these particular teams/individuals? Why do you need them to change their behaviour? After all, organisations don’t change, people do, so what exactly do you want them to think, feel and do differently and …why?

After a few more rounds of asking Why?, a more robust change and communication strategy becomes clearer. Ensuring everyone is aligned on the real ‘human’ outcomes of the change from the start, so that the true organisational goal or ambition can be achieved at the end.

As Simon Sinek states in his book ‘Start with Why’, “In business it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it”.

If you would like to know more about the power of Why? and how we can help you achieve positive outcomes and deliver sustainable change contact us.