"Why" Is More Important than "How"

21 June 2013

Working with companies implementing Agile, I have seen that most of the time management is more concerned about how to implement Scrum than why to implement Scrum. A lot of time is spent discussing how Scrum can be implemented in the project or an organization. Discussions range from trainings required for Scrum to the quality metrics a project should use in order to have some governance around quality, etc.

I believe that in most of the things we do in our lives, why is more important to know than how. If why is clear, than it is easy to figure out how to achieve it, and there is always a scope of improvement in the how part.

Let me try to give a perspective on why it is important to figure out why, and then how to figure out why. If you are a decision maker of a project team looking to implement Scrum as a choice of development methods, these are the steps one can follow.

Why it is important to figure out why?

Working with a multinational corporation, I was offered a project in the U.S. and requested to work from there and support the team in India as a coordinator. I readily accepted the offer in just a day, because it came with a pay raise, a long-term move to the U.S., good opportunity, and so forth. However, we need to keep one thing in mind: I had never been to the U.S. before and I had no prior experience of living overseas. I did not think about how I was going to live in U.S., I did not think about how I was going to get transportation to the office, I did not think about how I would survive as a vegetarian, I did not think about how the weather would treat me . . . the list could be very long.

The reason I did not emphasize how too much was because my why was clear: to grab the opportunity at hand, which would give my career a new dimension (and of course a pay raise).

Similar examples can be given for most of the things around us that were inventions, from the airplane to the safety pin, or from the diaper to the automobile. It has always been about the why. Hence, implementing Scrum in a project or an organization is all about why, why, and only why.

How to figure out why

Now, if your project or organization is thinking about choosing Scrum as a software development method, I would highly recommend that all the stakeholders first meet together, including senior management, and answer some of the questions I've listed below:

  • Does your customer want to accelerate time to market?
  • Does your project have a lot of change of requests?
  • Is your team struggling with productivity issues?
  • Does your team need focus on software quality improvement?
  • Is project visibility an issue?
  • Is reducing risk an important factor?
  • Is the current process overcomplicated, providing no motivation whatsoever to the developer?
  • Is reducing cost an important factor?
  • Does the project require high maintainability/extensibility?
  • Is team morale low?
  • Is there a concern about improving engineering discipline?
  • Is it required to manage distributed teams effectively?
  • Is individual accountability an issue in the team?

There are a lot of ways to address these situations. One could be heat maps in order to visualize the need, or the why. For example, if the concern is team morale, than the heat map below could help you decide why the organization should switch to Scrum:

Once we have figured out a clear why, then I think this message should be passed to the teams in various forums so that everyone understands the need for transformation. It will help people understand team and personal benefits, which will motivate them to learn the how part of transformation faster and contribute to the change with ideas and innovations.

Article Rating

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Comments

Bobby Taruc, CSM, 6/24/2013 3:34:40 PM
Great article. I have often heard of the old adage, "the people who know how will always work for the people who know why." Moreover, knowing the "why" or "why's" (plural) helps an individual and or team focus on the big picture and the end goal and not be constrained by temporary setbacks. Thanks for sharing this article.
Gaurav Rastogi, CSM, 7/1/2013 6:50:43 AM
Thanks Bobby !!!
Glen Wang, CSM, 7/10/2013 8:56:08 PM
he who has a "why"to live for can bear almost any "how".
Bhoodev Singh, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 7/11/2013 1:26:30 AM
Great article. Thanks for sharing it.
Ahmed Hammad, CSP,CSM, 7/11/2013 2:10:39 AM
Thanks. It is enlightening.
Richard Coffre, CSM, 7/11/2013 5:35:11 AM
Very interesting.
The question "Why" is too rarely asked because it outlines the REAL issues and organizations usually don't want to face them, even though they want to solve them. Strange, no ?

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