Applying the Why, How and What Model to Your Intranet
Simon Sinek introduced the Why, How and What model — otherwise known as the Golden Circle model — in a 2009 TEDx talk. The talk, which has been viewed over 55 million times, has had an outsized impact on organizations around the world. His follow-up book, "Start with Why," changed the way strategists approach any new endeavor.
Let's look at how to apply Sinek's model to intranets from three different perspectives.
The Golden Circle Applied to the Intranet as a Product
The model could help you describe the intranet's role within the larger set of tools (software or non-software) available to employees.
The intranet should reflect the mission and vision of the company.
The intranet should reflect the values of the company and its entire management system (way of doing things). It acts as the central repository and guardian of policies, procedures, forms, best practices and other support information.
The intranet should surface tasks and notifications and link to all the apps used in the organization.
An important note: with companies using an increasing number of applications, intranets often end up being overlooked and underfunded. Yet the intranet is the system that can communicate to employees the Why and the How of the company and to highlight the What around employee tasks.
The approach above highlights the intranet’s strategic importance for the company as a whole and should help any intranet owner better position their product in front of the management team.
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The Golden Circle Applied to the Intranet as a Project
When first building an intranet, the Golden Circle model can help improve the structure of your approach, motivate all the stakeholders and provide a clearer path to the desired state.
Can be as general as, "we want to improve the communication with our colleagues" or as specific as, “increase synergy between business functions.” Examples of why businesses invest in intranets could fill an article alone, so let's leave it at these two cases.
Things get complicated here. You might want to read How to Mass Produce A Great Intranet, as it offers advice to halve your efforts and double your results. In short, I believe the internal services provided to employees should act as the backbone of an intranet. Describe each internal service using the simple model described in the following section.
This really depends on the path you have chosen. My recommendation is to identify all the internal services and their providers, then work with them to collect the information they need to optimally provide their service to the internal customers.
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The Golden Circle Applied to Relevant Tasks
The number one objective of any intranet should be to improve the execution of all relevant tasks within the company.
How can you improve task execution?
One way is to view each employee task as someone else’s internal service. This service may come from a regular support department, such as HR or IT. It may also come from a back-office department supporting the front-office department or a product management department whose service is to distribute product information.
In the case of task management, I would add the six needs of an employee doing a task to the Golden Circle model. The combined will help to identify the types of information and functionalities the digital environment must deliver. Create a page or section of your intranet which gathers all the resources related to the topic at hand and structure them according to the employee’s needs.
The model described in the above picture should be easy to implement.
I have used and refined this model for more than 10 years. It's allowed us to reduce support effort (all the required resources were available in a single, easy to reach place), increase compliance (in association with a task management tool), and simplify change management (because all recent changes are visible at the beginning of the page).
The Golden Circle is a generous framework. If you have a different interpretation or have other ideas on how to apply it to intranets, please let me know!
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About the Author
Cristian Salanti is working as a Digital Employee Experience Architect at Zenify.net. He has been developing Intranets for the past 20 years. He is advocating for a more practical, managerial approach to Digital workplace design.