Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. John F. Kennedy
Do we understand the core, the reason for our project to exist?
I must admit that in the first companies I worked I had absolutely no idea why I was there, what was my contribution to the team. Of course I was benefited from the commercial transaction: “I get paid for doing this tasks from 9 AM to 6 PM”. I barely knew about the individual and collective goals they had set for me, or how they were related to the job I was doing.
When I started to design my life purpose, my own definition of why I am here and who I am, and the usual existential questioning that come with the age and maturity of our being, I was able to answer which my real purpose is. That is why I know for sure it is not easy to realize how we fit within a company.
It seems obvious that if we have a vision we can go further. The situation is similar to going on vacations: we first decide where we want to go, then check out the resources we have (or need) and make a plan. We list: who are we going with, our budget, clothing, roadmap, means of transport.
The purpose of having a purpose
In this word puzzle I want to express the importance of knowing where we are going to. Reading about the IBM beginning I discovered the founder, Tom Watson, was sure the success of his company was attributable to his original vision. From the early stages of the development of IBM he knew exactly where he wanted to be in the future (why, what for). That clarity of the idea took he and his team to act accordingly and define an action plan to make their dreams come true (how, what). He checked his vision against the results every day; if they didn’t match with the expected he made some adjustments.
How can we communicate our purpose to the rest of the people?
I don’t recall any boss or leader telling us about the organizational goals, the project goals or the team goals. If we don’t tell the people our vision as project leaders to the team we are setting boundaries to their productivity. If they are not aware of what it is expected from them individually and as a group how will they ever meet the objectives?
I suggest before starting any project for the team to meet and figure out together a common set of goals and rules, a manifesto. Why is our guide.
Why automatically sets up our mind to what and how.
An agile team purpose
The why represents a shared mission within a team aligned with their values and the culture of the company. The how includes our processes the way we do things and that is understood by the whole team and the what is the reason we work, we are there to satisfy our customer’s needs.
Simon Sinek speaks about our purpose and its importance to see further than tasks and processes, to start with WHY. I like better what for instead of why, because when we ask why we can justify our behaviour and make up excuses (the cause-effect kind of excuses). On the other hand, what for is more specific, goal oriented.
For example, when we ask why some excuses may arise “I do this because my father used to say…” And when we ask what are we doing something for we must answer with a purpose. “I am doing this to” get a specific result in the future.
Here is Simon Sinek highlighting the benefits of asking yourselves (you and your team) WHY (using the same golden circle):