Apr 2016

Explaining “Why” Improves Projects and Relationships

“Can you send me some figures on our year-over-year growth?”

“Which vendor would you recommend for this product?”

“Can you draft a response to this question about social responsibility?”

How many times have you been pulled – or pulled someone else – into a project with a blanket request sans background? Of course we’re all busy, so it isn’t uncommon for project managers to shoot off one-line questions to multiple subject matter experts to keep things chugging along.

But how might your approach to these questions change if you knew the “Why?”

  • “Can you send me some figures on our year-over-year growth? Our team has a meeting with a big client and they want to make sure our finances are strong.”
  • “Which vendor would you recommend for this product? A client wants to add it to their program and they often need next-day shipping to Atlanta, GA.”
  • “Can you draft a response to this question about social responsibility? Environmental protection is a key focus for this client, so we want them to feel good about our supply chain and our products.”

With a little background, your responses would likely include more targeted information, and maybe a little insight from past similar experiences. You could also save valuable time going back and forth on incomplete information.

Same goes for feedback. Delivering and receiving criticism is never fun, even when it’s constructive. But in these cases, explaining the why can make a world of difference in how it affects relationships.

  • “Next time, please give us notice when you need to extend a deadline. The designers can’t get started until we have your content, so not planning around that set us all back.”
  • “This executive summary needs to be re-written. The client told us these are their four most important goals, so each needs to be addressed up front.”
  • “We need a different case study here. This client is in the healthcare industry and their main concern is scattered spend. Let’s share the one about Main Town Hospital – it’s almost the exact same situation.”

Over time, a healthy exchange of feedback and criticism helps team members learn each other’s preferences, habits, strengths and weaknesses. This leads to more efficient and effective collaboration across the board. It’s always obvious when a team has good working chemistry, and that’s a win-win for all parties.

So next time you’re struggling to get the pieces you need for your project, ask yourself if you’ve explained the “Why.” Or if you’re trying to understand how your role fits into the project, ask yourself if you know the “Why.” And if you don’t, speak up. Because when everyone’s on board with the big picture, the details often have a way of falling into place.