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Why The Why Matters

Why The Why Matters

Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 152). 

People need to understand the “why”, children always want to know why. Why is a small but powerful word that when answered, can provide purpose. 

When you encounter poor performing teams, there is a leadership void and sometimes just clarifying the why, the purpose, can turn things around. A good leader can communicate the why, the leaders intent (yes I am channelling Jocko Willink, but he is right), and enrol the team into action with purpose. 

I have been coached, that in order to get to the root of an issue you need to ask and answer the why question three times. Why three? Because by the third answer you really have to think and justify the “why”. 

For example, why is it difficult to attract talent to study STEM and pursue careers in engineering and architecture? Here are my three answers:

1. STEM requires hard work

2. Society does not fully recognize the value of technicians, engineers and architects

3. There is a leadership void in higher education and industry 

So what has this got to do with property design and construction? In an industry that is notorious for poor leadership and management by shouting, I believe the why matters and can make a difference. 

Current Status-quo (IMHO)

In higher education, STEM students are taught the “how” not necessarily the “why”. My personal believe is that all engineering subjects should have compulsory minors in PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) to help round out the macro context and develop critical thinking, to prompt the why questioning. 

In building design and construction all parties seem to operate in silos and essentially work to survive, to meet minimum requirements. To do your job it is not necessary to know the why, just the how. IHMO, knowing the “why” will lead to better outcomes i.e. knowing;

1. Why the building is important / mission critical to the client.

2. Why and to what level the building systems must be resilient, low energy etc.

3. Why it is important for the facade installers to do a good job sealing penetrations and widow / roof interfaces.

The “why” determines the “what’. 

This is how I would explain the why to;

  • Students: Study STEM because, In a world of growing population and finite resources, society and the environment need your solutions. 
  • Building Designers: The quality of design work matters because owners want and actually pay for, high quality, low environmental impact buildings. 
  • Construction trades & artisans: Everyone of you make a difference to the operation and quality of a building over its entire lifespan. For example, if the building envelop is not installed correctly and leaks, the environmental and energy footprint of the building will impact society negatively on a compounding basis over time. Every joint, connection and sealing method matters. 

To summarize leaders intent:

  • Students: Study to solve problems and enhance peoples lives with your skills because the environment is under extreme stress (calm down climate change deniers, this is all IMHO). Be in the service of society. 
  • Building Designers: The project team will produce a set of drawings and specifications that exactly meet the owners requirements with zero errors and omissions. We will be in the service of the client and environment.
  • Construction trades & artisans: The project team will construct and deliver the project on time with zero defects. This is what the owner has paid for, anything less is our failure and breach of contract. 

I have experienced two types of leaders:

1. Do what I say i.e. management by command. They have little interest in the project or team, just their personal status. 

2. Motivators who delegate, empower performers, cut weak performers, distribute decision making and communicate the why clearly. They inspire commitment to the larger objectives and motivate personal best performances. Motivators lead from the middle and manage strategy, they are not at the front micro-managing and they are not at the rear issuing edicts. 

The “why” can change outcomes and improve team performance. In my experience good leaders can always communicate the “why”. 

Do you know your “why”? 

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

Related Posts:

#105 – Bad Projects? No, Only Bad Leadership ( https://bldwhisperer.com/bad-projects-no-only-bad-leadership/ )

#131 – Reflections on Horrific MEP Spec’s – Example of a lack of leadership ( https://bldwhisperer.com/reflections-horrific-mep-specs/ )

#61 – Too Big to Succeed? ( https://bldwhisperer.com/too-big-to-succeed/ )

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