Welcome to the fifty-first issue of CEE News!
“The single biggest challenge that any organization will ever face is its own success.” – Simon Sinek
In the third most popular TED Talk of all time, Simon Sinek inspired leaders to reconnect with their organizational why. In just 18 minutes and with a rough sketch of concentric circles on a flip chart, Sinek shared what he said was “probably the world’s simplest idea.” Most organizations focus on what they do and how they do it. But only the most inspired organizations have leaders who start with why they do it first.
In a less popular but equally profound TED Talk, Sinek turned again to the flip chart. In “First why and then trust,” Sinek illustrates why organizations must clarify and codify their why. Imagine a simple x, y graph. At the (0,0) coordinates, where x and y meet, is the genesis of an organization. At (0,0), x equals what and y equals, well, why. At that genesis, the what and the why are perfectly aligned. When a company launches, the founders are inspired by a big idea. They put some money together, and off they go.
At first, it’s easy for the founders to share their vision with their handful of employees. Customers are soon attracted and life is good. The what and the why lines grow in parallel on the chart. But, as Sinek explains, “the single biggest challenge that an organization will ever face is its own success.” Here’s why. The more successful an organization becomes, the more people it has to hire based on what they do. The company’s what starts to grow. “The problem is,” Sinek explains, “why they do it starts to go fuzzy.” And as the what and why lines separate, a trust gap occurs.
Here’s the key takeaway for your organization: the answer to why your organization exists can no longer be simply, “to make a profit.” If you don’t codify, clarify and deploy your why, you’ll have an unsustainable business model and no competitive advantage.