Simon Terry

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Purpose endures disruption. Discuss.

We know what we are, but not what we may be. – William Shakespeare

In a time of disruptive change, an organisation needs a strong common purpose to unite & guide its people.  

Purpose is a product of the community in your organisation.  It is the set of beliefs that keep your community together, reflecting your values, impact on others and hopes for the future.

A strong purpose is one that grows out of that community within your organisation.  We are talking about deeply personal values and beliefs.  This is the realm of pull, not push. People will have selected and remained with your organisation because of purpose.   A purpose cannot be imposed without pushing people away from your organisation.

Purpose endures.  

Your product, your business model, your competitive position and your returns may all change.  Just look at the changes you face:

  • Every organisation faces continued change in Who does things.  Tasks move.  People come and go each day.
  • How you do things changes equally fast.  That is the point of continuous improvement.  We want this continuous betterment of our work.
  • When big disruptive change occurs, organisations need to change What they do too. If you haven’t moved from buggy whip manufacturer to delivering remote mobile acceleration control services, you might just have been left behind. 

What keeps your organisation together and focused when everything might need to change really fast?  

A purpose that is shared by the community of your organisation is a centre of focus and consistency.  Importantly, the purpose is something consistently worth the investment of your people’s time, passion and effort over time.  Purpose is the core around which your organisation must build its agility to survive.  Purpose is the reason for which your organisation must survive and why it must prosper.  The more things change the more you will come back to your purpose to choose what to do next.

Discovering purpose

Start an ongoing conversation in your organisation around your purpose.   Seek to discover the beliefs that are shared and guide your organisation into the future.   Build a consensus and educate those who are new.  Social tools are fantastic ways to share and deepen this conversation.  

Ask purposeful questions of each other.  What is the purpose of strategies, changes and major initiatives? When is your organisation at its best?  What beliefs and ideas bring out the best in your people?  

The conversations are more powerful when they are not be dictated from the top of the organisation.  The best conversations on purpose will be those that surface the beliefs of those who deliver impact to customers every day, who make decisions in the middle of the organisation or potentially by asking your customers to reflect on your purpose. Discuss these points of view.  You will find that these conversations contribute to trust by building common ground.

Be prepared to be surprised, but most of all be prepared to find a new focus to the why at the heart of your organisation. Clarity of shared purpose will speed the agility of your people.  After all, your purpose is why you are and the best guide to what you may be next.


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