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This is a question people often ask me. It is different from a WHY session for individuals. In this article, I am sharing how we facilitate WHY sessions for organizations, what you can expect, how to prepare for them, and how it can benefit your organization.
The session is based on the book “Find Your WHY” by Simon Sinek and our own experiences.
The WHY session is for groups who share common interests, occupations, or goals. This can be a business or a not-for-profit organization. Simon Sinek calls it a tribe. There can be groups, teams, or departments within an organization with their own ‘nested’ WHY.
What is a WHY again?
The WHY of an individual or an organization is a contribution and its impact (to the world). It is always actionable, positive, and infinite. The WHY is not about what you do (your actual work), want to do, or how you do this (your values, your beliefs). It is about WHY you do things and has a strong connection to your feelings and emotions. These are generally harder to express. This makes a WHY so powerful.
A WHY is discovered, not created. It’s who we are and not what we want our organization to be one day in the future.
You can find examples of WHY statements from individuals and organizations here and here.
A WHY discovery journey aims to find out how your team contributes and what the effect is on the organization and world. You and your team will articulate a common purpose—the reason you want to do this because it gives people a sense of identity and belonging.
It will help you to simplify things. As a result, all your future actions will be more effective, powerful, and authentic so that people (both (future) colleagues and your target audience/clients/prospects) are more likely to follow you. The reason is that your WHY has a deeper and more emotional value. This will resonate better with the right people.
It can help your team be more productive, innovative, have better retention rates, and have higher morale.
Warning: An effect might be that it inspires other groups or the whole organization to find its WHY.
How long & how many people?
Ideally, reserve up to six hours for a WHY discovery session for organizations. If an organization consists of less than 30 people, all can attend. If the number of people is larger, select 30 persons from different areas of the organization. Include people of different ages, gender, and people who have been with the organization for different times. Also, include the founder or leader and invite people who are eager and enthusiastic about discovering a WHY.
Of course, the session will include plenty of breaks. The room should be big enough for all participants and facilitators to create breakout groups in different parts of the room. The participants shouldn’t be disturbed (by work). Therefore, an offsite location would be ideal.
It is helpful that the founder or the leader knows their own WHY, but it is not compulsory for a WHY discovery for an organization. Read this article for more information about an individual WHY session.
To prepare for the session, we will discuss expectations, practicalities, the different roles, and the number of participants in advance.
We will prepare an email to invite the participants to help them prepare for a successful session.
Although individual sessions can be done online, group discovery sessions should always be in person. For groups larger than about 20 people, we do the WHY discovery session with two facilitators. The reason is that two pairs of eyes and ears see and hear more than one to identify reoccurring themes, which is of great value to draft a powerful WHY statement.
After setting the context where we explain the WHY to the participants, we will run the WHY process. The leader or founder plays an important role in setting the context. The participants should know that their input is greatly appreciated and supported.
We focus on telling stories in subgroups of when the team was working at its best. Stories of when contributions the organization makes to others and the impact become clear. There will be different rounds where participants tell stories.
Each subgroup will draft a WHY statement based on reoccurring themes (contributions and impacts) in the stories. This is the purpose, the cause, or belief of the organization. The candidate WHY statements are presented to the larger group. When all agree on a candidate draft statement, this will become the draft WHY statement
Comparable to the “conversation of possibilities”, we will invite volunteers to be WHY champions. They will refine the words of the draft WHY statement to make sure it’s actionable.
What if there is no draft WHY statement?
There may be no draft WHY statement because participants do not agree on the right wording that fits the feelings. That is okay.
The WHY discovery process will normally generate much energy. We will allocate enough time to discuss how participants can put the WHY into practice to keep up that energy. The WHY champions will play an important role in keeping the WHY alive.
The follow-up session usually takes place within a month of the WHY discovery session. The goal is to make other organization members who were not present at the first session enthusiastic and take ownership of the organization’s WHY.
This session will take up to 4 hours. Do invite everybody but make sure that it is NOT mandatory.
During the follow-up session, participants will share stories of how they discovered the WHY statement without sharing it. This will be done in the second part of the session, where it becomes clear that it was discovered rather than being created.
It is possible that some attendees do not ‘feel’ the WHY statement. If most people feel this way, then you might refine it.
The goal is that others feel inspired by the WHY statement.
Next, a “conversation of possibilities” is held in subgroups to explore new opportunities. The goal is to find new ideas (WHAT‘s) in line with the WHY.
This will help make the WHY more alive. People will become enthusiastic by talking about it and relating it to their own experiences. They will discover what they can do to bring the WHY alive.
Our WHY comes from our past, but its value and promise lie in the future.—Simon Sinek
Do you want to discover the WHY of your organization so that you attract the people who believe what you believe? We can facilitate the WHY discovery sessions in Dutch, English, French, and German. Contact us today for a FREE intake session.
What is the WHY of your organization? How did you discover it? Let me know in the comment field below. The other readers of this article and I are looking forward to reading from you!
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–Find your WHY, Simon Sinek