Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Analysis Cannot Answer the Question “Why”

One of the really great things we do in Business School is to teach students an abundance of analytical tools.

There’s the basic SWOT analysis – what are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats?

And there’s . . .

Scenario Planning – let’s forecast the possible futures.

Balanced Scorecard – how can we predict future performance by tracking metrics in various operational areas?

The 7S Model of Strategy Implementation – thanks McKinsey.

And most elegantly, Porter’s Five Forces.  I don’t think I can observe an afternoon of presentations by our Executive MBAs without at least one of them working in Porter’s Five Forces.  If you don’t know them, check them out here.

As helpful as these analytical tools are, there is one thing they cannot do for you.  They cannot answer the question “Why?”  They cannot tell you “why” or “why not” you should do something.

Some of the most interesting and important questions of an individual’s or organization’s life, are “why” questions.

Why are we here?

Why is this important?

Analysis can’t tell you your values, your passion, or what you should care about.

The next time you see your team heading down a rabbit hole toward some decision to be made among uninteresting alternatives, you might ask them: “Hey guys, why again are we thinking about doing this?  Why do we care about this?  Let’s get back to the basics.”  Those can be some pretty powerful “why” questions.

Once you know “why,” then those analytical tools can be very helpful in figuring out how and what and where and when.  But if you don’t know “why,” then those really don’t matter.

*The blog title is a quote by the great Systems Thinking pioneer, Dr. Russell Ackoff.  Thanks Russ!

For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site at www.SheehanNonprofitConsulting.com   You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

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