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Leading with 'Why'

When clients come to Metal Toad, they're looking to get something done - improve or add features, upgrade their site or perhaps build something new all together. As a result, our conversations with clients often begin with a statement and a question: "Here's what we need" and "How is Metal Toad going to get it done?"

Unfortunately, leading with the 'What' and the 'How' has several pitfalls, the greatest of which is scope creep.

A client not starting a web development discussion with "Why are we doing this?" increases the likelihood of changes to what is needed and ultimately, how Metal Toad is going to deliver the results.

Inspiring Action

Simon Sinek highlights this issue in his TEDx talk 'How Great Leaders Inspire Action'. He refers to the "golden circle of motivation" and how people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. His chief example is Apple. Rarely in an Apple advertisement can you ascertain what you're getting or how it's being delivered to you. Nowhere on a 'Think Different' poster did you see an Apple product. This is because Apple leads with the 'Why', which has resulted in a die-hard fan base who buys the latest iPhone without a thought to a competitor's lower pricing or better features.

While Metal Toad might not be in the business of developing a company's message, we are a vital piece in communicating that message to inspire action.

Consequently, Metal Toad has spent a great deal of time investing in behavior-driven development and leading client conversations with 'Why'. Our goal for our entire team - from sales, project managers to developers - is to have a fundamental understanding of the business value for each feature we build and the motivation behind the request. This conversation also helps our clients shift their focus away from internal needs and onto their users, since they must articulate why such a feature or workflow is valuable to the customer. Ultimately, this leads to less scope creep and more clearly communicated feature requests to the development team.

Start the conversation within your company before moving the process into client work. Sharing the why behind your work and the client's you pursue is not only a good practice for future client conversations - you might be surprised at the changes it leads to within your own company.

Date posted: February 15, 2013

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