“How” is not the question

Upside-down photo of a sign with the word "answers" above the word "questions"“How will you do that?”

Since my time as a business systems analyst, designer, and software engineer, and now as a leadership geek, trainer, coach, and consultant … people constantly ask me, “How can we do that?”

But “how” is the wrong question. It’s almost always asked out of sequence.

Don’t ask how until you’re clear about what.

The instant you ask how something will or can be done, you’ve put a box around what you want to do.

Because you haven’t already fully defined what, you’ve imposed unnecessary constraints. You’ve limited your options, sometimes very painfully.

How is only to be tackled after you know what.

Selecting the tool before you select your objective is crazy.

“How can we do that?”

“Here’s a hammer – that’s how.”

“Okay, then our only options are nails, right?”

Resist all temptation – even if the tool you want to use is brand new, shiny, and something you really want to learn more about.

(If I’d listened to the people who asked me “how,” I would never have accomplished what they said was impossible. Because I refused to listen, I did it – and saved the company I worked for at the time millions in previously lost recoverables. That’s the potential magnitude of this error.)

Do not ask how until you know what.