What is the purpose of your company? Why does it exist? What purpose does it serve? What reason has brought it into existence? What must it do to ensure that it is relevant? How can it stay within its ‘energy niches’ to achieve its purpose?
Making a profit is not a purpose – it’s a given. As humans we need to eat every day – without eating we don’t survive. Eating is not our purpose – something bigger and more important is our purpose. Companies make profits in order to survive, but making profits is not achieving their purpose.
Many Boards define their purpose to ‘be the best’ or to ‘be the leading/number one in their field’ but this is also not describing a purpose. They are anodyne statements that can be trotted out, but do not provide anyone something they can believe in and commit to.
A company’s stated Purpose should position it in a way that its people feel inspired to go to work every day to make that purpose come alive. It should be something that people feel able to align their energies to and direct them towards achieving that common organisational purpose. A real purpose provides clear direction, and emotional content that engages people’s feelings and aspirations.
It is the Board’s responsibility to define a Purpose to which all members of the organisation can commit and create an emotional climate within which all stakeholders can recognise, empathise and collaborate to make it happen. A purpose is significant not only for directors and employees, but also for customers and suppliers, as well as the wider community if that organisations’ work impacts them. When the Purpose of an organisation is defined and articulated, it creates the ‘heart’ of the enterprise, generating energy and sustainability.
Some examples of Purpose are:
‘Glaxo is an integrated research-based group of companies whose corporate purpose is to create, discover, develop, manufacture and market throughout the world safe, effective medicines of the highest quality which will bring benefits to patients through improved longevity and quality of life, and to society through economic value.’ (20 years ago)
‘We are dedicated to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.’ (Glaxo Smithkline today)
‘Our goal has always been to create the world’s friendliest, most understandable, most useable computers – computers that empower the individual.’
Steve Jobs’ original purpose was “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
A wise Board identifies, defines and streamlines its organisation’s purpose in consultation with its staff, customers, suppliers and shareholders. A real purpose rings ‘true’ to all concerned. It’s a herald of what it stands for, a promise of integrity and trustworthiness. Without it, and the direction a clear purpose provides, it can become a cash generating machine whose only purpose is to deliver dividends to shareholders, bonuses to executives and a salary to its employees.
As people, we all want to be part of something bigger, something that is contributing to making the world a better place, and each person wants to be able to identify themselves with that mission. So leaders – what is your organisation’s purpose?
12 February 2016