People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it Everyone can say what they do or what they make. Not many people or organizations can tell you why they do it.

This blog post isn’t specifically about Scrum. It is, however, at the core of running a business and making products. Your cause, belief or purpose for doing the things you do relates back to a previous post I had about motivation, where mastery, purpose and autonomy were highlighted as the drivers of Motivation 3.0.

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To start with why in everything that we do we must ask ourselves what our cause is and what we believe in. If you don’t know these things chances are motivation won’t be all that great. Organizations that don’t really know why they exist will have a hard time both recruiting and motivating new employees and keeping the ones they already have motivated. Making money is just a result of what we do, not why we do it. To get high performing (scrum) teams it must have a purpose. Sure you can get a good implementation of Scrum – but it might very well just not “feel” right, and it will certainly not be a hyperproductive team. It’s not enough to recruit team members by saying what cool stuff your are building and how you are going to do it. It’s also necessary to state why the product you are going to build matters and its greater purpose. So initially the organization as a whole must have a reason for existing and then this must be a reason so clear and consistent in all that the organization do, that everyone in the company can share the same belief.

In his book Start with Why: How Great Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, we get an explanation for why some people and organizations are more innovative, more influential and are able to inspire greater loyalty and engagement among their customers and emloyees than others. The reason is that they all think, act and communicate in the same way – and that is the opposite from almost everyone else. Every single organization on the planet works on three levels:

  • What we do (products or services offered)
  • how we do it (the organization’s or individual’s strength, values or guiding principles which they feel sets them apart from their competition)
  • why we do it (purpose, cause or belief)

When all these are in balance others will say with absolute clarity and certainty that they know who you are and what you stand for. Sinek calls his idea the Golden Circle.

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The way people naturally communicate is from the outside-in, from what is easiest to understand to what is hardest to understand and explain. They tell what they do and how they do it different or better, and then expect people to buy their product or service, or get their vote or support. Leaders and organizations which inspire and creates loyalty and engagement does the exact opposite – they communicate from the inside-out.

The example which is perhaps easiest to understand is Apple. They start with why – they communicate in a way that drives decision-making and behavior, and literally taps the part of the brain that influences behavior. If Apple were to communicate like everyone else, this is could be how their sales pitch for their product ideas would look like:

  • We make great computers
  • They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.
  • Want to buy one?

This seems like a pretty standard pitch. You say what you make and how it’s better, then ask people to join/buy.

The way Apple actually pitches their products:

  • Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo thinking differently
  • The way we challenge the status quo, is we make our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly
  • We just happen to make computers – wanna buy one?

It’s of course not as easy as reversing the order in which you communicate your product ideas. It’s also of course about how you think and act. There must be clarity of why – you must know why you do what you do if anyone else is going to see this. How you do things must be aligned with these values, principles, strengths and beliefs. Lastly, everything you say and everything you do must be consistent with what you believe, because this is the only way people will know what you believe.

Sinek sums it up as this:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

So to get motivated and loyal employees and also loyal customers who “just feels” that your product or service is worth buying you should start with why. Any Scrum team that don’t have this clear sense of why will struggle in the end. Sure it’s the product owner’s responsibility for sharing a vision to the team and through that inspire and give a purpose for the team’s existence. This is not easy if the product owner is employed in an organization without a clear sense of why. So to every organization and every individual out there: Do you know your why?

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