Success is about solving your why what and how

Starting with a strong “why” is indeed crucial, and that’s where the principles outlined in the book “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek focuses on. Yet, for a holistic approach that yields real outcomes, we need to consider not just the “why” but also the “what” and “how”. In today’s fast-paced world, filled with complex challenges, these three questions form a compass that guides us. It’s in this context that agile practices offer significant value. 

If we turn our attention to Agile, we can begin by examining the Agile manifesto as a foundational framework. It’s worth exploring what made the manifesto effective in answering these three questions. Let’s break it down:

Starting with “why“: The manifesto’s opening line, “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it,” reflects the essence of beginning with purpose. 

Addressing the “what“: The result that emerged to answer this purpose was the Agile manifesto itself. A collection of values and principles presented on a website, each principle effectively answers the three questions.

Unpacking the “how“: It’s interesting to understand the creation process of this manifesto. A diverse group with different perspectives shared a common approach to software development. Through consensus-building, they crafted statements that all agreed on, resulting in a snapshot of collective wisdom. This collaborative journey helped set the stage for the “how.”

However, it’s important to filter out what doesn’t contribute to the ultimate goal. The unnecessary how. Let me give an example. Let us say you sell chocolate boxes (who doesn’t love chocolate?). An unnecessary how is what material your ribbon should be made from. Trying to be very efficient in doing something useless or doesn’t have an impact is a dead giveaway to unnecessary how.

In addition, not every decision requires unanimous agreement; some situations demand agility in how we approach it. Consider a medical scenario: in urgent cases, a nurse acts on a doctor’s directive swiftly, without getting into a debate, and helps him in case the doctor makes a mistake.

The takeaway? “How” helps you to maximize your “what” and achieve your “why.” Otherwise, it is not important.

Applying these ideas to Agile practices, we see that they’re designed to answer these questions in a cohesive manner. Agile doesn’t dictate every detail; it offers a guiding framework.

The why of Agile:

When should we employ Agile methodologies? To tackle complex problems (That is our “why”). We use concepts like product and sprint goals to articulate our aims.

The what of Agile:

We implement ceremonies and artifacts helping us create increments (that is the “what”). Do all ceremonies and artifacts need to be implemented all the time? I do not believe so. Should we ignore them on a whim? Also no. The key here is to be very purposeful and understand the “Why” behind the ceremonies and artifacts.

The how of Agile:

Finally, we inject our values to inspect and adapt and work together as a self managing/organizing team is our “how,” and our shared values to shape the “how.”

In summary, while “Start with Why” offers a valuable starting point, it’s not the whole story. The true power lies in integrating the “why,” “what,” and “how.” The Agile manifesto demonstrates how these elements can harmoniously work together. By clearly understanding the relevance of the “how” in relation to our “what” and “why,” we unlock the potential to drive purposeful outcomes. This synergy allows us to embrace Agile principles as a dynamic tool, steering us toward meaningful achievements, and ultimately, success.