Why is Why the Most Powerful Word in the Workspace?

Dan Sloan aks to challenge everyone in our workspace with the (sometimes annoying) WHY-Question.

Why is this question important?

“Why” do we exist?

“Why” are we working on these particular Features? What makes it essential for our Customers?

“Why” do we use Scrum to optimize business outcomes? How can we make it better and more focused?

“Why” do we use this backend?

All very useful questions, that give reason for and purpose to some of the things we do.
You can split them into two types: Content related (“Why feature A?”) & Proces related (“Why scrum?”) 

Content related why’s

It seems that, when joining a new company, many employees tend to ‘fit in’ the existing system. They adjust themselves to the company and pick up the existing routines or tools. Which is not a problem, until…. changes need to be made.
Then the reason for a choice, system, way-of-work matters a lot. Explicitly asking for (and documenting afterwards ) the why of choices when you make them, will make future adjustments easier.

Proces related why’s

For the more proces related, the Scrum master should constantly check with the team whether the way of working is fully optimized. Of course, the issue with “fitting in” when joining a team is the same for proces. The awareness that the team itself is responsible for the way they work will be raised by the why-questions.

When to ask these questions?

Dan suggests to start asking why tomorrow at work, first thing in the morning. Although the questions are important, they’re also a very hard… So they’re only valuable if asked to teams with the right mindset. A team member could not feel safe enough to express his/her own answers to the Why-questions.
So, use a retro, which has (should have) a ‘confidence-atmoshere’ by default, have lunch or coffee and ask 1 to 1.

– Why is Why the most powerful word?
Because it will optimize.
– Why?
Because it will help people to challenge the status quo.
– Why?
Because no solution or proces is ever 100% ready.


The Most Powerful Word in the Workplace


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I'm currently working as a delivery lead at Triodos Bank

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