Teach why before you teach how

I had a great conversation the other day about IT strategy and how IT can be a strategic partner to the organization.  Now maybe I am a bit biased, but I would like to think one of my strong points is my ability to look at a technical request, from the simple to the very complex, and consider the organization’s goals; whether for the entire organization, a specific line of business or an individual, and think about how that request aligns to those goals. I began to wonder if I am really as strategic as I thought, and as I reflected on my career I realized I was extremely lucky as a  young professional to have several managers / mentors, as far back as a summer job after my senior year in high school, always focused on why something should be done – and in many cases left it up to me to figure out the how.  I think this is important for several reasons, but most importantly if you are always thinking about the why, it almost becomes second nature to think strategically about almost everything you do even if its just as simple as understanding the need of one specific person or as complex as understanding the needs for an entire accounting/SFA/ERP system across an the organization.

As we move to a more social world, a more social enterprise it is more important than ever for managers and other senior level people to focus on teaching why something should be done versus just how something should be done.  If your teams can think about the why, inevitably this will spark conversation about the best way to accomplish a goal and lead you to a better solution, a more strategic solution and one that will likely have buy in and acceptance across the organization.

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