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Giving your teams the why and not the how boosts performance

Whiteboard photo by Kaleidico

Many organisations treat engineers, designers, and managers like resources to achieve business results. And they aren't wrong of course, that is why these people are hired. However, if you want to improve engagement, retention, and key business results; the secret is to give the team the why and let them figure out the how.

When giving teams a solution or a specific feature to build, without the reasoning or business goal, teams can happily get on with the work. I've worked with many teams that will break down the specifications, size the work and start chipping away. After all, this is what they are paid to do.

Quite often, after doing this over a period of time, this can become quite tedious as not having an input into the direction of the business, product or feature becomes tiresome. Reading Dan Pink's Drive (ADD LINK), it shows that having Autonomy is a key driver in delivery. By giving teams solutions and not allowing them to feed into them or to be creative will stifle teams.

Improving Engagement

Giving your teams the why will allow them to be more creative. It will increase engagement as they are then being asked "how do we solve this problem?"

When allowing engineers, designers, and other team members to give their opinion they can be some of the most creative people in the organisation. When giving an opinion and seeing it being listened to, this builds trust between the individual and the organisation. If any of the ideas are implemented then the individuals will feel a greater sense of pride in the product and business as a whole.

This results in the engagement of teams increasing which means the chances of team members leaving decreases.

I've seen this in countless organisations, engineers and designers complaining about "not being listened to", a common reason stated in exit interviews. Taking that off the table does not only remove that complaint but increases the speed at which features are delivered due to their ownership.

Improving Results

So, how does giving your team the why improve results?

When teams are presented with a solution, they will happily deliver. However, when you open the conversation of what do deliver and give the context of why it matters to the business, you are opening the problem up to pool of smart individuals with a wealth of ideas. Typically, these engineers, designers and product owners work in the product every day, they build new features, and see how they actually used - these people understand their customer.

So, giving them a chance to feed into how to solve problems and giving them the why, means they can contribute to solving it.

Typically, these solutions could be more radical and in my experience when teams have ownership, they tend to deliver the results faster.

Trial an Inception

Having an inception meeting is a great way to get the team together and hear their thoughts on how to achieve business results.

From there, you can see how feasible those solutions are and trial implementing a couple over the next iteration.

The results will be clear almost immediately - higher engagement, faster delivery and over a longer-term a positive impact on the business.

Want to hear more about GoRoadie's startup journey? You can read about Our Story or keep up to date with our new Startup Story series.