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Solve Problems through Delegation and Investment

Written By Michael Ferrara

Created on 2023-11-28 17:33

Published on 2023-12-13 14:29

Maximizing Effectiveness with the "Who Not How" Principle


In a world where individual effort and expertise are highly valued, Dan Sullivan's book, "Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork," introduces a transformative approach. This method emphasizes leveraging the skills and time of others, known as 'Whos', to enhance your own effectiveness and capacity.

While it does discuss leveraging others' skills and time, including outsourcing tasks, its primary focus is on a broader concept. It emphasizes the importance of collaboration, delegation, and building effective partnerships to achieve goals. The book introduces the principle of identifying 'Whos' — the right people or resources — to accomplish tasks more efficiently and effectively, rather than figuring out 'how' to do everything oneself. This approach is aimed at enhancing personal and professional growth, productivity, and achieving bigger goals through teamwork and strategic collaboration.

Leveraging the Skills and Time of Others: Identifying Your Whos

The journey begins with identifying 'Whos' – the individuals who possess the skills and expertise necessary to achieve specific aspects of your goals. This requires a clear understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses and recognizing where others can contribute more effectively.

Delegating and Outsourcing

Identifying the 'Whos' in the context of Dan Sullivan's "Who Not How" concept involves a few key steps:

By following these steps, you can strategically identify the right people to delegate tasks to, ensuring more effective and efficient achievement of your goals.

Once you've identified your Whos, the next step is delegation or outsourcing. By assigning tasks to others who are more adept in those areas, you can focus on what you do best, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Building Collaborative Relationships

Effective leveraging is more than task delegation; it's about nurturing collaborative relationships. These relationships should be mutually beneficial, respecting each individual’s unique contributions and strengths.

Nurturing collaborative relationships involves the following key principles:

By adhering to these principles, one can effectively nurture collaborative relationships that are rooted in mutual respect, shared objectives, and a commitment to growth and success for all parties involved.

Clear Communication and Vision Sharing

Communication is key. Sharing your vision and goals with your Whos ensures everyone understands the bigger picture and how their role fits into achieving these objectives.

Trust and Empowerment

Trusting your Whos to manage their responsibilities is crucial. Empower them with autonomy and decision-making authority in their areas of expertise, avoiding the pitfalls of micromanagement.

Relinquishing Control

To apply higher levels of teamwork effectively, it is crucial to relinquish control over how things get done. This means placing your trust in capable individuals (Whos) and giving them full permission to own their methods (Hows) of task completion. This approach allows people to deliver their greatest work, as it is often inspired by the freedom to labor in their own way.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders provide the vision and then step back to allow their team the space to execute it. This type of leadership involves two critical elements:

Individualized Consideration: This involves attending to each team member's needs, acting as a mentor or coach, and listening to their concerns. It's about providing empathy, support, and open communication, as well as respecting and celebrating each person's individual contributions. By placing challenges before the team, you allow them to grow and develop.

Intellectual Stimulation: As a leader, it's important to challenge people's assumptions, encourage risk-taking, and solicit ideas from the team. Stimulating and nurturing creativity and independent thinking in team members builds their confidence, empowering them to make their own decisions and take risks. Leaders should view learning as crucial and unexpected situations as opportunities for growth, allowing team members to ask questions and make their own decisions about task execution.

Regular Feedback and Adjustment

Maintaining open communication for feedback and adjustments ensures alignment with the goals and addresses any emerging issues promptly.

In essence, autonomy without clarity and regular feedback can lead to misdirection and inefficiency. Regular feedback helps in adjusting strategies and actions, ensuring that the autonomy granted to team members is effectively utilized towards achieving clear and defined goals. This approach ensures that the team does not "wander in circles freely" but moves in a meaningful direction towards the set objectives.

Embracing Technology as a Strategic 'Who'

Technology as a Delegating Tool

In Sullivan's view, technology should be leveraged as a delegating tool. It can handle routine tasks, freeing up time for more significant endeavors. This is achieved by no longer being the first or best option to complete a given task. Instead, you delegate or outsource all predictable tasks (Hows) to other people, external companies, or even technology. By doing this, you remove yourself from tasks that are routine or predictable, allowing you to focus your time and energy on more productive and impactful activities.

Technology as a Team Member

Technology is not just a tool; it's a team member that gets smarter and faster over time. It's a 'Who' that can contribute significantly to achieving your goals.

It emphasizes that technology should be seen not just as a tool, but as a dynamic team member that keeps getting smarter and faster. This perspective shifts the way we traditionally view technology from a static resource to an active, evolving participant in achieving business objectives.

The idea is that technology, like any team member, can contribute significantly to the team’s success. As it evolves, it can handle more complex tasks, provide faster solutions, and improve efficiency in various processes. This approach to technology emphasizes its ongoing development and the need to continually integrate its advancements into the team's workflow to maximize overall effectiveness and productivity.

Technology and Outsourcing

The modern world is shifting from specialized individual tasks to those outsourced to technology. This evolution signifies the decreasing value of certain skill sets that may be easily replicated or replaced by technology in the near future. Instead, the ability to connect with people, learn, and collaborate is becoming increasingly valuable. The age of competition and the focus on individual "How" is diminishing, making way for a new era where collaboration, including with technology, is key to achieving success and creating meaningful impacts.

The Impact Filter: Clarifying Goals and Visions

What is an Impact Filter?

An Impact Filter is a strategic tool used to clarify the thinking and vision for a project or goal. It helps in identifying the right Whos to execute it effectively.

10 Components of an Effective Impact Filter

An Impact Filter includes the project title, purpose, ideal outcome, success criteria, obstacles, required resources, potential Whos, initial steps, accountability, and a deadline. This comprehensive structure ensures a clear understanding and alignment of goals and actions.

Here's an example of how an Impact Filter might look:

  1. Project/Goal Title: Expansion of Online Marketing Efforts

  2. Purpose: Why is this goal/project important? To increase brand visibility and customer engagement online. To diversify marketing channels and reduce dependency on traditional advertising.

  3. Ideal Outcome: What does successful completion look like? A fully functional, user-friendly online marketing platform with integrated social media channels. A 20% increase in online customer engagement and a 15% increase in web traffic within six months.

  4. Success Criteria: Specific, measurable outcomes indicating completion. Launch of a new, optimized website with e-commerce capabilities. Active social media presence with consistent posting and engagement strategy. Development and execution of two online marketing campaigns with measurable impact.

  5. Obstacles/Challenges: Potential barriers to achieving the goal. Limited in-house expertise in digital marketing. Budget constraints for extensive online campaign. Balancing the shift to online marketing without neglecting existing marketing channels.

  6. Resources Required: What resources (time, budget, expertise) are needed? Allocation of budget for website development and online advertising. Hiring or contracting a digital marketing expert or agency. Training for current marketing team on digital strategies.

  7. Who Not How: Who can help achieve this goal? A web development agency for website redesign. A digital marketing consultant for strategy development. Social media manager for content creation and platform management.

  8. First Steps: Immediate actions to start the project. Conduct market research to identify effective online strategies for similar businesses. Reach out to potential web development agencies and digital marketing consultants for quotes. Schedule a team meeting to discuss the shift in marketing strategy and roles.

  9. Accountability: Who is responsible for overseeing and ensuring progress? Marketing Director to oversee the entire project and coordinate with external consultants. Project Manager to ensure timely execution of each phase and manage internal resources.

  10. Deadline: When will the project be completed? Initial launch of the new website and online marketing campaign within four months. Review and assessment of the impact after six months.

This Impact Filter format helps to structure your thoughts, establish clear objectives, and identify who can help you achieve these goals, moving away from figuring out 'how' to do everything yourself.

Beginning the Framework of Investing in 'Whos'

Starting with Clear Vision

To begin investing in Whos, one must first complete an Impact Filter for each goal or project, clarifying the vision and defining what successful completion looks like.

Asking the Crucial Question

Once the goal is clear, ask, "Who can help me accomplish this goal?" This shifts the focus from the 'How' to the 'Who', a fundamental change in approach for many.

The Financial Philosophy of Problem Solving

The Concept of Money as a Solution

Sullivan posits that having enough money to solve a problem essentially means the problem doesn't exist. This philosophy underlines the significance of financial resources in addressing challenges and the value of delegating to alleviate problems.

Practical Application

The concept is practically applied by investing in Whos. By having the financial means to outsource tasks, you can focus your efforts where they're most needed, thus effectively eliminating certain problems.


In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, the 'Who Not How' principle is more relevant than ever. As challenges become more multifaceted, the ability to effectively collaborate and delegate will be critical for success. This principle is not just a strategy for achieving goals; it's a mindset that promotes a more harmonious and productive way of engaging with the world.

In conclusion, Dan Sullivan's "Who Not How" is not just a methodology; it's a paradigm shift in how we perceive and approach our goals and challenges. By embracing this principle, individuals and organizations can unlock their true potential, achieve greater goals, and pave the way for a future where collaborative success is the norm, not the exception.

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Tech Topics is a newsletter with a focus on contemporary challenges and innovations in the workplace and the broader world of technology. Produced by Boston-based Conceptual Technology (, the articles explore various aspects of professional life, including workplace dynamics, evolving technological trends, job satisfaction, diversity and discrimination issues, and cybersecurity challenges. These themes reflect a keen interest in understanding and navigating the complexities of modern work environments and the ever-changing landscape of technology.

Tech Topics offers a multi-faceted view of the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of technology, work, and life. It prompts readers to think critically about how they interact with technology, both as professionals and as individuals. The publication encourages a holistic approach to understanding these challenges, emphasizing the need for balance, inclusivity, and sustainability in our rapidly changing world. As we navigate this landscape, the insights provided by these articles can serve as valuable guides in our quest to harmonize technology with the human experience.