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The Ideas Distillery
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Why Are You Here? (and why the answer matters)

I am privileged to have worked with many organisations, and one of the first questions I ask is “Why Are You Here?”. 


I get some very strange answers to this, but the question is intended to get the business owner to think. If we are running a business, a fundamental question we need to have answered is “What is Our Purpose, from the viewpoint of our Customers?” 


Again, interesting answers appear, including “To provide great service”. However, this could apply to any organisation, and does not help us understand what “great service” looks like. 


For this, we need to talk to our customers. 


A simple question to ask our customers is “What Matters to you about the service/product we provide?” It is a simple question, but often causes the customer to think carefully about the answer. 


It is important not to rush the answer, or to provide limiting factors such as “Is it important that we answer the phone in three rings?” – because the vast majority of people will answer yes to any of these questions. 


Keep the question simple, and you get complex and useful answers. Carry on asking customers until you are hearing nothing new. What you will hear will enable you to clearly articulate the Purpose of your Business from the Customers’ viewpoint. 


It also, tells you how people want your service or product provided to them. If you do not provide the service or product in that way, you will know about it – customers will complain to you, or go to a competitor. 


The organisations I work with find it is cheaper to do “What Matters” the first time – an additional bonus being that you get flowers and chocolates instead of complaints! 


It is important to involve the people working for you – get them to ask customers “What Matters?” too. It gives them an amazing experience, and encourages them to remember why they come into work each day. 


Once you know your purpose, and what matters to your customers about how you provide it, you also know what to measure. All this from a simple question. 


So, take the day off tomorrow – but come into work anyway. Talk to your customers – ask them “What Matters?”, they will be delighted to tell you.


Simon Pickthall is Principal Consultant at Vanguard Cymru, and has been invited to speak on numerous occasions regarding the application of the Vanguard Method for Systems Thinking. He was a member of the Munro Review of Child Protection team, and teaches on the Cardiff Metropolitan University, Leadership for Collaboration course, and is a Trustee and writer for the Bevan Foundation.




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