Navigating the Golden Circle

“Every single person on the planet knows what they do. Some know how they do it. Very, very few people know why they do what they do.” – Simon Sinek

This quote is at the heart of the reason that most companies/groups/teams struggle to improve their situation. Most people focus on what they do, as if the what is in and of itself a statement of worth. Think about it. You are a software developer. It’s what you do. If that was all there was to it, there would be nothing to distinguish the value you bring as a developer from anyone else. “What” is quantitative – it can be measured. “What” is tangible – it can be touched or observed.

To achieve distinction, people will focus on how they do what they do. For example they will focus on the practices and methods that make their product unique. How is where your craftsmanship will stand out.

Why do you get out of bed in the morning, and why should people care?

Simon Sinek’s, Golden Circle is represented as a sequence of concentric circles. The outermost circle is labeled “What”. The middle circle is labeled “How”. The innermost circle is labeled “Why”.

Because it is the easiest to grasp, most organizations focus first on the outer circle and work their way in. As such, their motivation at the innermost level tends to be somewhat contrived. They seek a reason (a Why) that fits the pattern established by their What and How. In these organizations the “Why” winds up being something along the lines of “To increase shareholder value.”

There is another class of organizations that approach their existence from a means-value position. They start in the center of the circle and work their way out.

Author: Michael Marchi

Michael Marchi
CSM, CSPO, SA4

Co-Founder and Board Member @ APLN Chicago (michael.marchi@aplnchicago.org)

Manager, Management Consulting / Chicago Agile Practice Lead / Agile Coach & Trainer @ Strive Consulting (mmarchi@striveconsulting.com)

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