TBM 6/53: Way and Why

I recently co-wrote a playbook about the North Star Framework. A common question after reading the book is "how do I introduce this framework in my organization?"

The advice I give is the same advice I give for any effort to introduce a tool, pattern, framework, or method.

Don't become the North Star Framework person. Don't become the OKR, design sprint, design thinking, mob-programming, or Agile person. Don't stop learning, of course. Don't stop trying to help using what you know. But don't lead with The Way.

Why? Because you run the very real risk of being forever pigeon-holed as The Way person. Dismissing and discounting The Way is easy. Now you have a horse in the race. Now you're the gullible one who thinks that a framework will fix everything. Now you're the person imposing your way. The Way is More Process. Even if none of this is true, you'll have to fight an uphill battle because it is easy to misconstrue intent.

I'll always remember receiving this feedback:

It feels like you are more concerned with us doing X than us figuring out how to to fix the problem.

That stung. Internal dialogue: Why can't they understand I am trying to help! But I could see their point. With roles reversed, I'm often the one who resents being told The Way. I like to figure it out for myself.

What should you do instead?

In my experience, it is more effective to lead with The Why -- the opportunity, problem, or observation. And whenever possible, it is more effective to speak for yourself instead of a vague "we" or "some people". For example, the North Star Framework addresses the need for “more autonomy, with more flexibility to solve problems, while ensuring my work aligns with the bigger picture.”

When you lead with The Why it is easier to test the waters. Do your teammates actually share your need and perspective? Do they see the problem a different way? Do they have ideas on how to help in that area? Is another opportunity or problem more important to address now?

The actionable thing to try is to experiment with distancing yourself from The Way, and focus on The Why. Start there, even when you are eager to solve the problem.