Title: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Author: Simon Sinek
PMEvolution.com Book Club Review: 2Q16
PM Evolution Amazon Store Ordering Link: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
View Mr. Sinek’s TED talk that inspired the book to understand the basics of how he sees the WHY inspiring the HOW before finally getting to the WHAT.
Mr. Sinek introduces his book discussing the difference between leaders and those who lead. He suggests that while being a leader is an organizational role, actually leading is a personal characteristic independent of organizational position. The ability to inspire is said to be driven by ideas, aka WHYs.
Consider two project teams. The first has plenty of external funding, team members who are highly educated, experienced and driven and the goal of developing a particular new technology. The second team is self-funded by individuals with modest income, most team members are not college educated or experienced in the technology and have the same goal as the first team. Samuel Langley was assigned to lead the first team and the Wright brothers formed the second team. Mr. Sinek proposes that the difference in outcomes is that the Wright brothers were inspired by why flight is important to humanity while Mr. Langley was driven by motives of personal gain. As a result, the project teams had vastly different levels of inspiration for their common goal.
Project managers are trained that one of the first efforts of any project is the creation of a project charter. To extend Mr. Sinek’s principle to the project charter template, this document should, above all else, capture WHY the project exists in an inspirational manner.
Here is a project charter template aligning with this concept.
In this form, the project charter becomes the foundation of both communication and decision making throughout the project. For example, when faced with project issues, WHY the project exists should guide the decision making process for issue resolution. Likewise, scope changes should be evaluated with the filter of WHY the project exists.
Motivated Project Teams
Mr. Sinek extends the concept of starting with WHY to the downstream impacts for an organization. He proposes that organizations which understand WHY they exist (and are able to communicate that WHY internally and externally) will be more successful. If organizations base their decisions on their WHY they will be seen as authentic. As a result, WHAT they choose to do will be embraced by the marketplace because those products or services will align with what the marketplace understands the organization does.
Mr. Sinek points to Apple, Inc. as an example of an organization that understands WHY they exist. As a result, Apple has been able to expand their personal computer business into disrupting industries such as the mobile phone industry and the music industry. Their WHY also drives the passionate loyalty of their employees and consumers because those individuals share Apple’s WHY and see Apple as consistently authentic in demonstrating their WHY.
For project managers, these same concepts can be leveraged to develop motivated project teams. If your project’s charter has an inspiring WHY and you are able to consistently leverage that WHY as a communication tool and decision filter, the project team will develop trust in the project. Trust among project teams, especially teams which have not worked together previously, can only be built via consistency.
Keep in mind that trust can be both positive and negative. An inspiring WHY can setup a project team for passionate execution. Likewise, a project which is not consistent will lead team members to trust that the WHY of the project isn’t authentic and will negatively impact team member motivation.
- Share a story about a project that has had a very inspiring WHY and the impact on the project team.
- How important is consistency to having a motivated project team?
- Share an inspiring WHY for a common project (Ex. “Construct a wall” vs “Build a cathedral” or “Data Center Migration” vs “Improve the efficiency and reliability of the server infrastructure upon which our care givers rely”)
- In addition to the project charter, what other project management tools can embrace the concept of starting with why?