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Why Ask Why

checklistBefore you spend the next week, redesigning the TPS report, you need to stop and ask yourself a simple question.

Why?

Why are you doing it?   If you can not map the task back to a stakeholder or customer objective/requirement (goal) you better stop now.  Some people call this gold-plating.  Additionally if you can not map the task back to one of your personal goals, you better stop now.  I call that flushing time down a toilet.

Do you sometimes feel like you’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic?  Are you spending all of your time doing stuff that is not getting you any closer the real goal?  Well, stop for a minute and pretend you are a 5-year-old.

Whenever you ask a 5-year-old to do something, they never seem to do it without first asking why.

Go sit down
Why?

Because it’s dinner time.
Why?

Because you need to eat your dinner.
Why?

Because I don’t want child protective services saying we don’t feed you.
Why?

Because we’re trying to get you to adulthood without scarring you too much.

What’s our main personal goal as it relates to our son?

Goal 1: Get him to adulthood without scarring him too much

Now, as project managers and leaders, what are your primary goals? Is it keep the project on schedule? Is it keep the project from going over budget? Or, is it one of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto?  Whatever your answer(s), when asked to do something, keep asking why until you reach your main goal(s).

We want to add this change to the next deployed version
Why?

Because it is now a priority
Why?

Because it will either save time, money, or both

What’s one of our documented goals related to our project?

Goal 1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

Like the image?  Find it at Pictofigo

About Derek Huether

I'm Vice President of ALM Platforms at LeadingAgile. Author of Zombie Project Management (available on Amazon). Novice angel investor.

4 Responses to “Why Ask Why”

  1. October 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Looks like an iterative approach to parenting!

    • Anonymous
      October 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm

      Ain’t that the truth!? Though you don’t get many do-overs, you still pick your battles and focus on getting things done. Then again, trying to define “done” when dealing with a 5-year-old isn’t as easy as with a x5-year-old customer.

  2. Laura Gideon
    October 4, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    TPS reports – lol Derek! shades of Office Space!!

    • Anonymous
      October 4, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      I introduce the TPS report wherever I work. I also have an Initech coffee cup and have a red (model 747) Swingline stapler. I am geek, here me roar.

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