Organizations need new and innovative ideas to solve complex problems. However, sometimes an "good" ideas can be the very reason behind its problems.
In this video, "Navigating Webs of Interdependence," renowned scientist Peter Senge, a director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says that “Systems thinking is not about understanding systems, rather it is about understanding how the problem that is most vexing, difficult, and entrenching (to the organization) came about.”
Senge adds that “Arriving at this understanding requires deep and persistent commitment to real learning, meaning you must be prepared to be wrong.” To understand this concept of real learning, you need to understand how an idea can create a ripple effect felt throughout an organization. As a result, an organization can be hampered not because of a lack of ideas but because of the ideas.
A handy way of dealing with ideas before they have a chance to negatively impact an organization is to follow the idea of the Golden Circle, described by author Simon Sinek as “the model that codifies the three distinct and interdependent elements (Why, How, What) that makes any person or organization function at its highest ability.”
First, ask yourself “why“ as in why you need to implement an idea in the first place and what failure or lack of something are you trying to address. After knowing your rationale for coming up with an idea, you need to figure out “what,” as in what is your idea. Only then will you discover “how,” as in how are you going to actually implement the idea.
For an in-depth look at this process, check out Sinek’s TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
Though customers can be interested in "what" we do as an organization, they care more about ”why” we are doing what we are doing, Sinek says. In essence, customers buy into your purpose and belief as a leader rather than buying your products. Knowing this, your organization should explain to customers its sense of purpose as well as its ideas—before supporting their implementation.
Similarly, in his presentation “Predictability and Measurement with Kanban,” agile pioneer David Anderson said that in order to be able to communicate our message and become predictable, we need to understand the universe we live in. Likewise, we need to understand our organization’s universe and the context in which it operates.
This thorough understanding is what MIT’s Senge coined as the “mental model.” Understanding this model should help you figure out your “why" before you answer your "what."
Please share your experiences with ideas that were not in the best interest of your organization because of a lack of understanding "why."
Sameh Zeid currently implements agile and lean in IT and software development. He believes that projects can be more successful if they employ the ideas of agile, lean, and gamification. For more than twenty-five years, Sameh has participated in different roles in myriad projects for various industries around the world. He's learned that software practitioners are passionate to innovate, and it's up to management to not demotivate them. Sameh blogs at koo-doy.com.