The “Why” Part One

I was struck recently by a short TED talk from Simon Sinek, based on his book from a few years ago called “Start with Why”. He describes the concept of the golden circle in organizations.

Most organizations start with “what”, proceed to “how” and then consider their “why”. He makes a case for the reverse order; starting with “why” as an inner circle and then generating the “how” and the “what” as outer circles.

Few organizations, he says, know why they are doing something. You can call it your value proposition or mission or some other term, but few take the time to examine their “why”. By “why”, he means “what is our purpose?”- “why are we an organization”. I recently posed this question of our staff partners at a retreat asking them to consider their own “whys”.

And further, Sinek notes that these “why” questions are worth revisiting throughout an organization’s history as our mission response might change depending on who is asking and when.

My friend Anna Madsen is a theology professor and speaker who began a faith-based discussion studio she calls OMG (non-texters: OMG= Oh, my God). She takes questions from all comers. She notes that in her experience good questions are often more important than definitive answers and that there might be more than one answer to the same “why” question.

Why is LMM an organization? Why do you join us in building community and advancing innovative responses to human need? What is distinct as a value proposition setting LMM apart from other agencies?

I encourage you to join LMM’s staff and board as we, too, wrestle with these questions.

Our organizational structure grew organically and evolved over decades. As it changed, it made sense for different eras in our past 47 years. These arrangements were intentional and addressed community need by being spread out and segmented.

But we know that we face intensified situations where, increasingly, people with multiple and acute barriers come to us for holistic services.

We know that a highly competitive non-profit marketplace requires that we distinguish ourselves and provide something particularly beneficial and empowering in addition to government-paid safety net services.

We know that we need to be accredited, data-driven and results-oriented for stakeholders so that we can continue to be relationally-driven in our service ethos.

In light of these realities, the current exploration of our “why” has determined our need to change how we are structured. LMM has forged ahead with several changes in 2017 to unite under a single 501(c)3 designation, launch a new program for Health and Wellness Services, identify a position for Community Re-Entry and Criminal Justice Reform, and undergo a feasibility study for a comprehensive campaign focused on affordable housing. We’re excited about these “hows” and “whats” generated by our current exploration of “why”.

Stay tuned for The “Why” Part Two.