Why do You Do What You Do (Lesson on Vision from Starbucks)


One of the most important questions every person, leader, organization must answer is “Why do we do what we do?”

If you don’t know the answer to this question, anything is fair game or a good idea. This question answers how you spend your time, spend your money, how you deploy volunteers or staff members. If it is not clarified from the top on down, an organization or church will languish.

The answer to this question empowers people and helps them to know that their contributions matter, are needed and are making a difference.

I recently saw this at Starbucks.

One of the things we’ve done for years at Starbucks is order a large smoothie for our kids and split it into 3 small cups. This helps us spend less and give our kids the amount that they need.

Last week, Katie ordered it that way (as we’ve done for almost 5 years) and the barista said, “we can’t do that.” When Katie asked why, the barista didn’t know. She just said they aren’t allowed to that.

What makes this interesting is how Starbucks has always trumpeted “say yes whenever you can to the customer.” They will remake drinks if they don’t taste right, give out free water if you ask for it and on and on.

Needless to say, knowing this it seemed odd.

Then, we went to a different Starbucks the other day and ordered it again and the barista said, “we can’t do that.” Again, Katie asked why and she didn’t know. A manager jumped into the conversation and said, “we can’t do that because we’ve been taken advantage of.”

Here’s where a lack of a clear why destroys a company or church, scarcity comes in. Volunteers and staff aren’t sure what is okay. You say, “always say yes” and then create rules. Fear grows and things stagnate.

Now, will Starbucks go under because of this. No.

Think about my family though and what Starbucks will lose: In the past we’d spend $5 on a smoothie we split into 3 cups. Now, I’ll order 3 tall waters for free. I’ll still get the cups, the straws and the sleeves because my kids love those. The difference? I’ll take money from Starbucks instead of giving it to them.

Running your organization or church through scarcity or a lack of why is destructive. Do you need to be wise? Yes. Make money to survive? Yes. But those who seek to protect instead of give away or be generous quickly find themselves scrambling to keep what they have. Our culture loves generosity, not scarcity. In churches, God blesses generosity, not scarcity.