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The How-Why Gap: Your Connection for Organizational Alignment (infographic)


Asking the question, “What’s your why?” has become fashionable to the point of cliché. The intent is to explore purpose and personal meaning. In the workplace, companies are structured like ladders with each organizational layer asking (and ideally solving), “How, When, Who, What and Why” questions. Companies with work execution problems must resolve their “How–Why” gap to achieve organizational alignment.

Breaking Down The How-Why Gap

So what is the How–Why gap? Employees who ask a lot of “how?” questions are most likely working at the ground level – where the work gets done; making journal entries, receiving and shipping goods, or producing widgets. Employees who ask “when?” and “who?” questions, are likely planners / schedulers, front-line supervisors or entry level managers. People who ask “what?” questions are people who prioritize work – Senior Managers and Directors. At the pinnacle of the organization, members of the C-suite often find themselves asking a lot of “why?” questions to set strategic priorities and the purposes of the organization.

“The frontline often does not understand why, and the Executives often don’t understand how.”

When front-line employees venture to ask why questions amongst themselves in the breakroom, they often lack insight into the forces that drive the why strategies. By the same token, it is rare for Executives to understand how the work gets done. Simply put, the frontline often does not understand why, and the Executives often don’t understand how. The greater the misalignment between the why actions taken by the C-Suite and the how execution on the shop floor, the stronger the cultural cognitive dissonance throughout the organization. I call this the “How-Why” gap. Scott Adams, the creator of the workplace cartoon “Dilbert” became famous by satirizing the “How–Why” gap between Dilbert and the Pointy-Haired Boss.

Aligning the How, the Why and everything in between

Reconciling the “How–Why” gap is where USC Consulting Group shines. Many consultants offer Executives ideas on emerging strategies, but few consulting companies get to the how of a company’s point of work execution problems. USC does this by working hand in hand with shop floors, ground level staff and front-line supervisors. We trace activities from their origin through to their completion and identify improvement opportunities along the process journey.

But USC doesn’t stop at understanding how the work gets done, we move up the work ladder to address misalignments with the Who and When, the What and the Why challenges facing the organization. Once insight is gained into the current state, we dive deeply into planning and scheduling inefficiencies where who and when questions are resolved. As one of our senior partners is keen to remind us, USC stands for the “Universal Scheduling Company.” Not only is master scheduling and resource capacity planning our heritage, but it is literally part of our name.

Getting answers to what questions can be among the most challenging because these questions demand prioritization. Managers and Directors who are embroiled in answering what questions are often battling for limited resources (budget and headcount), trying to keep their personal initiatives high on the priority list. This rung of the ladder is where most corporate politics are fought out.

USC Consulting Group’s expertise is developing continuous process improvement action plans that narrow How–Why misalignments. As the improvements we recommend take hold, the cumulative brainpower of the human capital in your organization is unleashed improving cycle times, availability, throughput, cost, quality, reliability, or any KPI that measures the effectiveness of your company’s why. Front line employees can answer “how do we execute our why?”  Managers can answer “who will execute our why and when will we do it? Directors can answer, “what initiatives need to be prioritized to execute our why?” and Executives can effectively map the strategic course to answer, “what is our organizational why?”

This detailed infographic illustrates the importance of each role and how to achieve optimal organizational alignment:

The How-Why Gap Infographic

If your company needs help with organizational alignment and closing your How-Why gap, please contact us today.

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