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19 June 2019
The purpose and the how

Over the years the importance of purpose, both individually and for an organisation, has risen on the agenda. There are books and TED talks that date back 10 years (at least) about understanding the why behind what we do and telling us that purpose is important for organisational culture. Having spoken to several business leaders about their organisational purpose to help them define their strategy it’s clear that we are forgetting the importance of how. Listening to Bruce Daisley speak on the Internal Comms podcast the other week affirmed that my thinking wasn’t just my own.

So, if you are looking at your purpose or you’re trying to work out what just isn’t working inside your organisation here are the five things I start with when helping organisations shape their business strategy:

The purpose must be both individual and organisational
Take the time to understand what makes your people tick. It will be aligned to your organisation and if it isn’t, it gives you a chance to understand what is important to your teams – usually it can play a role into the focus for the organisation as well. An individual told me in a workshop that saving the planet was a big piece of his purpose. This wasn’t coming through in the company strategy and in conversation we found that this was important to everyone – so we made sure the strategy reflected it.

The purpose is the hardest part
It really is. It takes a lot of thinking, conversation, sometimes uncomfortable discussion but it is all worth it. Use a space that isn’t in the office and give people the freedom to walk, think, take the time to work out what feels right. It’s a creative process which can often feel uncomfortable but persevere and the rest comes easy.

You have to follow purpose with how
There is little point in creating a purpose without exploring how it will be fulfilled – whether that is values or behaviours. Look at the stakeholders and how this plays out with each of these and talk about the day-to-day. How does it impact your communication style with different stakeholders? What does it mean for the physical space or your appearance?

You don’t need all the answers at the top
There are still a lot of organisations that look up. Look to the top for guidance on what to do and how to behave. So many teams talk about not being listened to and so many organisations seem to have forgotten what they are there to do. Someone said to me last week “Decisions are made by those with the most to gain” but decisions should be made by those with the best insight.

Have the conversation in person
It’s easy to think that you can discuss company purpose through a survey but this has to be done face to face. If you’re a small business get the whole team together and run a workshop – if you’re larger, work with the Board and then the senior team to discuss and work through the detail.

I hope this helps as you work through some of the organisational strategy work that is no doubt high on the list for 2019/20!

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