Having a shared purpose means the stated reasons for the existence of an organisation to which all leaders and employees of a business can commit. The purpose creates an emotional climate within which all the stakeholders operate and to which they want to commit. An example is Microsoft’s early purpose – which was to ensure that ”a personal computer is on every desk of every home”. It is an over-arching reason that allows individuals to collaborate with others, with the clarity of the reason why they are together and what their mutual outcomes are expected to be.
If it’s a valid and true purpose, that leaders and most employees can value, buy into and use, then purpose becomes the heart of a business, the equivalent of what causes the energy as it races through the organisation, making everything tick.
Having a purpose or creating it for a business is to create an alignment that is even bigger than a strategy. It’s like putting in place an over-arching reason for people to work together, to collaborate in achieving the organisation’s vision and business objectives.
A strategy is about identifying in which direction to go. Strategies work best when they are aligned with the visions and goals of the organisation. Gary Hamel, a strategy guru states “Strategy comes from viewing the world in different ways. Strategy starts with an ability to think in new and unconventional ways”. So the direction of a company’s strategy can change, whilst still holding strong to the company’s purpose.
A group of people with a shared purpose brings together organisational capabilities and human resources in the form of skills, expertise, collaborative behaviours and attitudes; experience and innovative ideas, to tackle common problems and challenges. The power of the purpose enables conflicts and differences to be quickly addressed and resolved, as people recognise that the purpose of the organisation is stymied or stopped if diverted by differences.
In the current climate of pandemic exhaustion, the power of the purpose in many organisations has waned, as other priorities, such as safety, health, well-being, family needs have become more important matters of concern to employees. Many employees have come to feel that their personal concerns have trumped their company’s purpose – especially, if profit has been the primary purpose of that organisation. This has led many employees to leave their company in search for companies that will provide them with an environment in which they can put their personal concerns first, and the organisation’s second.
It is thus incumbent on many organisations to revisit their purpose in 2022 and see if a deeper, more true purpose to their organisation’s existence can be come to, that will also include the primary concerns of their staff. The power balance has shifted quite dramatically as a result of the pandemic and employees hold a stronger card hand, which is resulting in resignations, higher salaries to move elsewhere, expedited promotions and greater flexibility in working practises.
There is now a need for greater partnership thinking between employers and employees, to forge joint problem-solving forums, coordinating resources and building trusting relationships of greater equality. Communication that is two-way, free from fear, open and honest is crucial, if new understandings are to be come to, about the nature of purpose that the organisation is there to fulfil. Employees can only resonate with that purpose if it takes their primary, personal concerns onboard and into account. Without this, there will be disconnect between leaders and their people and the organisation will lack a coherent and integral purpose, as their employees will be working to their personal agendas and not the organisations.
5 February 2022