The Why Equation

I was having breakfast with a friend of mine this morning and, as usual, we talked about a lot of things – life, business and most things in between.

I’ll call him ‘L.’

‘L’ works in financial planning. He’s self-made and one of the most successful people I know. Though he works with a large, global firm, he and his brother own a smaller company within a company, of which ‘L’ is the principle owner, executive and strategist for a team of five. His business, like his life, is in a period of evolution and he’s beginning to ask some questions. How is his team going to make the next evolution? What does he need to do to improve his leadership? All the kinds of questions a considered guy like ‘L’ should be asking.

I’ve spent my career asking questions. First as a journalist and now as a strategist. There are six cardinal questions that every journalism student has drilled into their head – Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. No story is complete without answers to all of them. I’ve asked them all literally thousands of times – we all have. They are the same questions I ask when working on a digital strategy, whether for a one person start-up or a Fortune 500 global brand.

The cardinal questions are the building blocks of a plan, but they are not all equally important when it comes to a strategy. For that, you need only one: Why?

“L” and I talked for a long time about the things that he’s considering and in the end, we both realized that the question he – like anyone developing a strategy – need to tackle is why? What is the purpose behind the services he offers? What is the purpose he gives his employees for coming to work every day? What is the purpose he serves for his clients?

Focus on the why. Solve for the why. If you do that, the who, what, where, when and how are a lot easier to answer and will probably fall into place.

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