As anyone who has spent two minutes around a toddler knows, “why” is a question you can find yourself frequently answering. I once counted, and I answered “why” 147 times in a four-hour flight when my daughter was two. “Why” follows children, parents and teachers into elementary school, sometimes into middle school and occasionally into high school and college. But somewhere along the way – certainly before we get into our first post-schooling job – we stop asking, and answering, the “why.”
Why do we stop explaining the “why” behind our actions? And how could an emphasis on “why” provide what Adam asked for in his last blog post? He pondered whether “by altering perspectives we can bring better context into the ethics and compliance effort.” I would argue we can – by bringing back the why.
Simplification is a word I’ve been hearing a lot lately. Companies seeking to simplify their policy universe from 1800 policies down to something easier to corral and audit are taking a hard look at whether those laboriously produced documents are providing the guidance needed. In some cases, the answer is “yes,” but in many cases, the answer is “sometimes.” And the reason it’s “sometimes” is because the absence of “why” provides employees with no guidance beyond the literal four corners of the page, and we all know the four corners of the page can’t possibly contain every situation an employee might face. We have to provide the “why” in order for an employee to use their judgment.
Of course, the “why” can’t be “to keep the company from getting sued.” Use that as a why, and you end up with the anti-trust policy that has a four-page summary of the Sherman Act at the front of it. Lovely, to be sure, but the least helpful guidance a sales manager has received. The “why” has to be focused on the reason for the rule; the thing that caused the rule in the first place. Only then can we hope to change behavior.
[bctt tweet=”The Power of “Why” @SCCE” via=”no”]