Your IT project and it’s goal is never rational

5 Whys

One of the important practices in finding out what the real need behind a stated requirement is asking “why” five times. But, the chances are that other side will get annoyed or that real reason is simply weird. E.g. “because I simply want this!”. In other cases, the customer can even state imaginary, untrue reasons just to get you of his back.

We want something for emotional reasons

When I used to work for Xebia, I requested Macbook Pro instead of in my opinion lousy Dell laptop. I was actually the first one to make such a request. Nowadays, almost all of the Xebia guys use Macbooks.
First manager asked me if I could elaborate my reasons and give arguments why Macbook is better for my work and not only more expensive. I tried of course, but it wasn’t very convincing. Before I almost got a “no” I tried my luck with another manager, by giving another load of arguments. Many of them not really true, but more just opinions. Before I could even finish my argumentation he just said:

“You mean, because it’s cool!?”
After I said yes, he made sure that I get fully loaded Macbook Pro.

As an IT guy or girl you can judge people for wanting something without rational reasons, but the truth is that the real reason behind everything you do is not rational, but emotional.

Money is never the real reason

Even this one:

“Why do you want this system?”
“Because I can make a lot of money with it.”
“Why do you want to make money? You obviously not making it, but getting it from others.”
“Because it makes me feel successful!” or maybe something profound like “Well, maybe not to make money, but to improve someone’s life and that makes me feel good.”

Most shared reason why people want or do something is to have a meaningful life, to achieve or become somebody in the eyes of others.

In contrary to common belief that money or profit is the ultimate requirement for anything in business world, I believe that money is actually never the real reason. People who say this don’t know much about themselves or are simply addicted to one of the most common addictions in the world in an unhealthy manner.

Asking why still important

The reason why an architect or anybody else should ask “why” is not to change someone’s mind, but to fully understand the needs and the world surrounding the needs. At first these are rational, but if you go far enough you get to hear emotional ones. A few things to bear in mind when hearing the answer:
  • “…because our company needs this” is most often an ego wearing a mask and pretending to care for the company.
  • go back and forth when asking -why-: “I want this iPhone app, so I can help others.” “What makes you think this app will be helpful?”.

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