If there is a hierarchy in the process of solution building, organisation building, or even life building, the foundation is understanding the WHY before anything else.

Too often, I think the WHY is assumed and we dive into the what, how, when and where type questions. Those questions are essential. They make the abstract concrete. We need that. We also need the concrete attached to a purpose. Purpose is often fuelled by a concept. An idea. A vision. A mission. A WHY.

In my new role at TEAM IM, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to ask WHY. It has been one of the highlights of my new work environment that WHY is a good question to ask. It underpins all those visionary questions, like “What if…?”

The thing about WHY questions are often the initial answer is only the first layer of the onion of purpose. Hey, I like that phrase. Consider “the onion of purpose” copyright, but as nobody in their right mind would say this, I think I’ll open source it.

Onion of Enlightenment

My first WHY question at TEAM IM was basically, “Why TEAM IM?” Weren’t we Team Asparona (in New Zealand) and TEAM Informatics (in the USA) a year or so ago? Why did we rebrand? Well, there’s a story to that, and it started to explain TEAM IM’s WHY.

So I’ve strayed into the mission and purpose of an organisation. We are in Simon Sinek territory, and he has been a great resource to call on via the magic of YouTube, as I deep-dived into understanding my new organisation’s WHY.

All organisations have a WHY, and it tends to be those that live and breathe it through their culture, brand, values, and purpose do better than those that don’t. Cheesy? Perhaps. Sometimes, cheese is the perfect ingredient.

This works on a personal level as much as an organisational level. So back to the onion for a moment. It’s worth spending time reflecting on your values and purpose to figure out your own WHY. Exploring the layers of a WHY means you get to ask the how, what, and when. Those focus questions can also help to identify meaningful actions. Thought exercises are interesting, but without action, you can be left with potential instead of actual—what a waste. So, with every why, ask another why. Triangulate with the other types of questions. Then think about how to turn this into action. Make what you do have more impact than what you say.

In regards to TEAM IM, I had imagined the IM stood for Information Management. Certainly, this represents a significant part of our business. But as I looked around at what we were doing, I realised we had grown beyond this. Security services, application development, cloud migrations, business process optimisation, strategy and advisory services, as well as managing IAAS and PAAS environments for our customers. These activities are not considered information management. Over the last few years, almost unnoticed, our service offering has changed. A closer look and I found that how we got there was driven by an almost invisible process that centred around our WHY.

To understand that WHY, I asked some questions:

    • Who do we serve?
    • What are we good at?
    • When there are no deadlines, what tasks do we gravitate to?
    • Where (or who) do we want to be in 1 year? Three years?
    • If we say yes to this, what are we saying no to?
    • Does this align with our values or become an expression of our values?

When I looked around at our TEAM IM — our projects, our recent successes, and the direction we have been heading in, things started to fall into place. I could see that we were looking at the technology landscape with a perspective around data that could be summed up in two words—information Matters. I could see our different skill sets provided services to our customers centered around another two-word phrase: Information Mastery. From there, I could sense our WHY.

But enough about my new job. The main point of this blog was to get across the idea that under all the how, what, and when questions, prioritise the WHY question to keep you on track. From there, ask questions so you can convert ideas to actions. Whether you are building a solution for a customer, figuring out your business strategy, or finding the reason to get out of bed in the morning, peeling back the onion of purpose can bring tears of joy to your eyes.

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