KM, Complexity and Resilience resources

Keep your currency high, keep asking why, why and why?

David Griffiths
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Started by David Griffiths on
21 Feb 2013 at 12:26
Founder, K3-Cubed LtD
Know-how: Business Development
Learning & Dev
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Leonardo da Vinci is credited with saying, “Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals open your eyes”.

I have seen that fundamental blindness mislead projects to their demise.  I have seen managers set out down paths that are obviously misguided, blinded by a fundamental lack of understanding to support their decision to choose that particular direction. And there is nothing worse than sitting in an inception meeting where the managers concerned can’t give a clear rationale for ‘why’ they are taking you in a new direction.

By nature, adults tend to resist change that is imposed upon them.  Most people in organisations know this, have probably experienced this, and yet on so many occasions I have seen project/change teams fail to provide a satisfactory rationale when challenged to answer, ‘why’?  I am not just talking about asking the question once, which can often lead to superficial, unsatisfying responses, but a minimum of three times (we always add a fourth – see the last question below).  For example, an organisation that is looking to evolve assessment towards 360 degree feedback:

Why do we want to do this (what is causing pain that requires change)?

Why do we want to go this way instead of taking a different direction?

Why would people want to come with us on this journey (what is in it for them)?

Why do this at all (what is the cost of doing nothing)?

By rigorously interrogating the decision making process you are better positioned to respond to the challenge, you will limit failure and you will be better placed to motivate people to follow you down a particular path.  On the other hand, you could just go with your gut, forget things like Cost Benefit Analysis, which will come from asking these questions, and hope for the best.  That type of blind ignorance leads to a loss of credibility, not only for the project/change ‘lead’, but for the organisation. Ask yourself the tough questions or be prepared to have people like us in front of you who will. Keep your currency high and keep asking, why?

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