The Art of Strengths Coaching

W is for ‘What, Why, How, Who, When’

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There are many models for working to achieve specific goals. One approach is to keep returning to using ‘What, Why, How, Who and When’.

These are the words that people use when doing strategic planning. They are also used by writers, of course, when composing a piece. Rudyard Kipling wrote:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Imagine you are leading an organisation that aims to tackle a challenge or achieve its picture of success. Let’s explore how you can use this approach to clarify your strategy for achieving the goals.

The What

The first step is to establish clarity – the ‘What’. It is to clarify the real results to achieve. This is the most vital and yet overlooked step.

Great decision makers spend a lot of time on this stage. Why? They make sure they are climbing the right mountain. Otherwise it is easy to confuse activity with results and rush into climbing the wrong mountain.

Going into a situation, such decision makers quickly gather information and look beneath the surface. They ask:

What are the real results to achieve? What are all the short, medium and long-term goals? What are these in order of priority? What is the picture of success?

They start from the destination and work backwards. They are crystal clear on the real goal before clarifying how to reach this destination.

Imagine that your organisation wants to achieve a specific goal. This may be to turnaround the business, improve customer satisfaction, boost internal morale, launch a new product or whatever.

Gather your leadership team together and describe the specific goal. Then invite them:

To brainstorm the real results to achieve.

To list the desired results in order of priority.

To, if appropriate, translate these into a clear picture of success.

Make sure people are crystal clear on the ‘What’ before moving to the next step. It can be useful to complete something like the following exercise.

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The Why

Let’s move onto the ‘Why’. What will be the benefits of achieving the goal?

Great leaders show their people the benefits of achieving a specific goal. They describe the pluses for various stakeholders – such the organisation, customers and employees. They are also honest about the potential downsides.

Peak performers look at the whole package before committing to reach a goal. Bearing in mind the pluses and minuses involved, they ask:

Are we really serious? Do we really want to go for the goal? How can we build on the pluses and minimise the minuses? On a scale 0 – 10, to what extent do we really want to go for the goal?

They make sure their motivation is at least 8+/10. They then commit to achieving the picture of success.

Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Imagine you have settled on working towards achieving a specific goal. Describe the benefits of achieving the goal for the various stakeholders.

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The How

Move on to the strategy for achieving the goals. This often involves going through certain steps. Let’s explore these stages.

Clarify how you can
control the controllables

You can focus on: a) The things we can control – such as our professionalism; b) The things we can’t control; c) The things we can do to build on what we can control and manage what we can’t.

Clarify the key strategies you can follow to
give yourselves the greatest chance of success

Bearing in mind the goal to achieve, you can ask:

What are the key things we can do to give ourselves the greatest chance of success?

Brainstorm lots of ideas. Then settle on the three key strategies, for example, that will give the best chance of delivering success. You can have lots of sub strategies beneath each of these principles.

Clarify the tactics under
each of the strategies

Describe the specific things that must be done to implement each of the strategies to achieve the goals. Make sure that you build in some early wins.

This is a lot of work, but it provides the platform for achieving success. Try summarising your findings under the following heading.

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The Who

Good organisations implement the right strategies with the right people in the right way. Getting the right people – and giving them the support they need – is crucial.

Looking at the strategies to be followed, ask the following questions.

Who are the kinds of people we need in order to reach the goals? What is the kind of spirit – the behaviour and characteristics – these people need to demonstrate? What are the skills they need to have? How can we find these people?

What will be the specific responsibilities of these various people in working towards achieving the goals? How can we make clear working contracts about their specific contributions? What is the support they will need to achieve the goals?

Try completing the exercise on this theme.

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The When

Time to move on to the ‘When’. Starting from the destination and working backwards, create a road map for achieving the goals. This can include:

The Dates: The key dates by which certain things must be delivered.

The Achievements: The specific things that should be delivered by these dates.

The Quotes: The actual words that you would like to hear people saying about your work at various points along the road.

These quotes can be from colleagues, customers and other people. Such quotes help to bring the road map to life.

There are many ways to make such a road map. The one shown below invites people to describe their goals under the 3 Ps: Profits, Products and People.

They then describe what should be happening under each heading at various dates along the road. You may, however, use a different template with different categories.

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Another approach is to do a shorthand version of this road map. Perhaps outlining some of the key milestones on the journey.

This can be useful if you are simply giving an elevator pitch that outlines what should be happening by when. If so, you may prefer to complete the following exercise.

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There are many ways to clarify the strategy for achieving your goals. One approach is to keep focusing on the ‘What, Why, How, Who, When’.

This can also become the basis for your organisation’s story. You can communicate this to people by saying:

The organisation’s picture of success is:

The benefits of achieving this picture of success are:

The strategies we are going to follow to achieve the picture of success are:

The specific responsibilities of people on the road to achieving the picture of success are:

The specific things that will be happening – and when – on the road to achieving the picture of success will be:

You can then keep reminding people of the strategy on the road towards achieving success.

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