Understand the Reason
  • Knowing why it is I am doing what I am doing
  • Recognizing how the interaction of underlying factors and assumptions impacts our work
  • Asking questions to clarify “the why” beneath a request

HARRINGTON COMMENTARY

This week’s GuideMark is Understand the Reason: comprehending the important factors involved in a situation, knowing the facts about those factors, being able to put those factors into context, and properly acting on them. When we Understand the Reason behind our work, it helps us do our jobs better, and it prepare us to adapt to changes in the future. Let me illustrate with a simple word exercise. Warning: you may be tempted not to do this exercise. Do it anyway! It will help you understand.

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Here is a list of five words that help describe Understand the Reason. I have arranged the words in four different lists.

  • 1. Discern. Comprehend. Perceive. Realize. Recognize.
  • 2. Discern. Realize. Perceive. Recognize. Comprehend.
  • 3. Comprehend. Discern. Perceive. Realize. Recognize.
  • 4. Comprehend. Perceive. Realize. Recognize. Discern.

Each list has the same five words, but they are organized differently. Can you tell the difference between the lists? Could you create the lists yourself if given a new set of words? Why do list #3 and #4 look so similar?

To help you out, I’ll add the word “grasp” to the lists. (Don’t forget, these are all words that describe the GuideMark Understand the Reason.)

  • 1. Discern. Comprehend. Perceive. Realize. Recognize. Grasp.
  • 2. Grasp. Discern. Realize. Perceive. Recognize. Comprehend.
  • 3. Comprehend. Discern. Grasp. Perceive. Realize. Recognize.
  • 4. Comprehend. Perceive. Realize. Recognize. Discern. Grasp.

Did adding the word “grasp” to the lists help you understand each pattern? If not, and if you are feeling adventurous, enjoy little mental challenges and/or are extremely bored, take another minute now to try and figure out the methodology behind each list. The answer key is found below.

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Why does the sequence matter? Well, let’s assume for a minute that it is your job to make lists of words. People come in; they give you some words; and you give them back their words arranged in lists. (Sounds like an interesting job to me.) If it is your job to arrange words properly into lists, then it would be very important that you understand how to take a group of 5 or 6 words and sort them properly. It is unlikely that every customer is going to bring you the same words. There will be new sets of words every day. Unless you understand the underlying factors in list making, you will not be able to do your job very well. In fact, you might even lose your license to sort words. {I’ll stop now before this illustration gets much further out of hand.}

Now, I understand that it isn’t your job to make lists of words. (At least not your day job.) But you do have a job or other responsibilities -- and I do know that it is often times the little details and nuances of our responsibilities that make the difference in how well we manage those responsibilities. If you are a professional word list maker, you had better figure out how and why the words are arranged properly. Similarly, if you are a _______, then it is important not only that you do _______, but that you understand the rules, factors and inputs that impact your work. One day, those factors will change and you will need to adapt. If you Understand the Reason, then you will be equipped to make the changes necessary in order to continue fulfilling your roles and responsibilities.

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Here is the answer key explaining the sequence of words.

  • List 1. Random sorting based on the sequence the words came to my mind.
  • List 2. Words sorted by size, shortest words first, and then alphabetically.
  • List 3. Words sorted alphabetically starting with the firstletter of the word.
  • List 4. Words sorted alphabetically starting with the last letter of the word.

Key words and phrases

Comprehend the information; Insight into the circumstance; Discern the meaning; Realize the importance; Grasp the significance; Perceive the implications; Make sense of the facts; Realize the situation

Opposite terms

Ignorance; Lack of understanding; Failure to comprehend; Miss the point

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