Reconnecting to the Purpose

March 16, 2023
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At the start of 2019, Forrester predicted that purpose-driven-strategy would be back on the agenda for organisations trying to make sense of emerging tech, millennials and economic flux.

“… purpose will regain meaning as a strategic priority for entirely pragmatic reasons and to answer critical questions that go to the heart and soul of driving growth. 20% of brands will refine and revitalise purpose.”

What is surprising, is that Forrester’s research confirms that businesses are allowing themselves to lose touch with the reasons ‘why’ they are doing what they do. An organisation’s energy, enthusiasm and ‘grit’ is depleted when its people lose sight of the purpose. It becomes difficult for people to get out of bed in the morning with an iron-clad conviction. So how could it be that an organisation allows themselves to lose sight of what the mission is all about? The likelihood is that day to day operational issues and other challenges are given priority. If that continues without reconnection to the purpose, the future vision fades. The morning routine loses its spark and people head off to their workplace with a dulled pain that speaks of something like, “what’s the point”.

Organisations without a clear purpose-driven-strategy lack cohesion and synergy; the invisible forces that fuse people together energetically in a way that unifies people into one powerful team. The formation of such a team has the capacity to break new ground and achieve consistently successful outcomes. A winning sporting team’s success formula capitalises on these principals in leadership, skill development, team dynamics, teamwork and game strategy. The approach is inclusive and cohesive. The overarching strategy is purpose driven and part of a daily routine that is never taken off the agenda.

Team cohesion. The chemistry of unity

Cohesion was defined by Festinger, Schachter and Back (1950) as “the total field of forces which act on members to keep them on working in the group.” Another research group, Carron, Brawley and Widmeyer (1998) describe the concept as a dynamic process that addresses the inclination of a group to merge collectively and amalgamate due to the active purposes as well as the contentment of associates emotional requirements; “team unity” and “team chemistry”.

Satisfaction in the work we do is now understood to be vitally important for the individual as much as it is for the organisation.

People tend to perform better when presented with autonomy and a sense of responsibility. Contributing to the organisation, empowers them with a sense of fulfilment. The positive outcome from having a cohesive team, unified in action, moves the organisation towards its vision quicker.        

The Future Foundation surveyed more than 700 executives across 7 countries in 2004 to determine the cost of poor management. They found that US executives spent nearly 7-weeks per year cleaning up problems and mistakes. This took their focus away from the purpose. The estimated cost in the US alone was $105 billion annually. The hidden cost to organisations with a poorly installed purpose is revealed in the loss of high-performing staff who move on because they want to see their contribution providing value to others. On a personal level, job satisfaction is realised in the ways we make a difference and contribute value to someone else. That is inspiring.

The barriers to cohesion and unity

A study conducted by The Australian Centre for Business Growth, found the top reason for the failure of Small Medium Enterprises (SME), was a lack of leadership, poor management, and/or no planning. The top five reasons for failure included insufficient market research and sales skills, mismanagement of financials, underestimating the impact of externalities, and poor governance structures. According to Success Harbour, the top five reasons for failure in the US are: a lack of planning, poor leadership, little or no differentiation, ignoring customer needs and the inability to learn from failures.

Steering toward purpose

For a team to succeed, every person must be committed to the journey, have skills, the ability to develop further, willingness to give their best every day and servitude to the team ahead of self. It is not the usual framework of a job description. The decision to be part of an organisation that impresses upon its people to continually challenge their thinking, requires greater consideration of the dedication required to be part of something bigger. It undoubtedly necessitates a higher level of buy-in from each person, which is made easier when the trajectory of the organisation is based on a purpose-driven strategy.

A purpose that inspires employees to invest themselves more heavily into that business’s service or products, usually delivers better customer-value. It inspires outstanding contribution from each team member that powerfully adds to the success of the organisation.

To promote synergy, the organisation's leader needs to drive the evolution of employee skills, have the ability to adapt and innovate. Their role is not to be a boss. It is to be a visionary and a facilitator of greatness in others, as well as themselves, by providing the tools and knowledge that allows each person and the organisation to shine. Surely true job satisfaction is realised when a team experiences the best version of self and the incredible value it presents to others.

Furthermore, the leader’s role is both people centric and tactical. Their view of the of the world needs to be well considered to make the right decisions. It requires broad skillsets in observation, analysis, people and systems management and customer behaviour to leverage difference within the market. Ideally, the leader is highly observant and empathetic at the same time; able to interpret patterns while securing genuine relationships based on trust and integrity.

Why purpose

Unity is the chemistry needed to deliver a purpose successfully. It is the resonance formed between team members that connects each other through common values, unifying the group into one powerful force. A purpose-driven strategy must be clearly articulated, inclusive and part of an organisation’s daily and weekly planning. It requires a dedicated commitment to shaping a culture of inspired and inventive people who don’t want to work anywhere else because job satisfaction where they are is so valuable.

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