Acting on Purpose

“Purpose” is a foundational principle for success, yet we pay little attention to it. In times of crisis, purpose and purposefulness is how we navigate risk and uncertainty.

Our purpose provides grounding, something that, when challenged, we come back to in trying to figure our path forward. Using Simon Sinek’s popular terminology, our purpose provides us our “Why?”

We, sometimes, confuse our purpose with outcomes created in pursuit of our purpose. We, often, have no purpose. For example, “shareholder value” is not a purpose, neither is “making money,” “creating profitable growth.” But having a strong, focused purpose provides us the foundation to figuring out how we grow, how we make money, how we create value–for our people, our customers, our communities, and our shareholders.

Our purpose is the foundation for our value proposition, it helps us define our customers (ICP). It provides us direction. It establishes what we stand for, what problems we solve/how we create value. It provides a basis for our customers to identify with us and want to work with us. It provides a basis for attracting people who have similar purpose/values/dreams. It says who we are, positioning our company within our markets/industries.

Purpose driven organizations root every decision and action in that purpose.

Most companies will have some sort of mission/purpose/values statement they refer customers, shareholders, investors, potential employees to. But for too many, it’s just lip service. They are words that appear in annual reports, analyst presentations, or sales pitches. But they aren’t the foundation for the value systems, strategies, or decisions that are made.

So why am I going through all of this? It’s not just a philosophical point or discussion. It’s a ruthlessly pragmatic issue.

As we look at how different organizations are responding to the current global health and economic crises, we see a distinct difference in companies that are purpose driven and those that are lost and wandering.

Every organization has been impacted by these crises, but those that are “figuring things out” are the purpose driven organizations. As we develop strategies to respond, recover and grow, we can only do so by asking fundamental questions:

  • Who are our customers? What value do we create for them? How do we help them in these current circumstances?
  • What are the most important things we should be focused on for our people, our customers, our communities, our suppliers, our shareholders?
  • What are the things we must change and why?
  • What are the most important things/priorities we must focus on and why? What should we be stopping?
  • How do we best position ourselves to take advantage of the growth opportunities that are presented by this disruption?
  • What can we stop with minimal impact on our ability to execute our purpose?

Companies that are purpose driven are “managing” this time most effectively. I’m seeing these companies looking beyond the current crises focusing on what’s next and how they leverage these new opportunities.

By contrast, those that aren’t purpose driven are struggling. They are focused on the present, struggling to deal with it. They’ve made bad decisions, cutting critical resources/programs, alienating customers, suppliers, blaming everything but their bad leadership and lack of focus, vision, purpose, and values.

This is a time when we need to get back to fundamentals, where we have to refocus on those things that are most critical for our people, customers, communities, suppliers, and shareholders. Without a purpose, we have no basis or context within which to act/respond.

If you and your organization have “lost” your purpose, there is not better time than now to re-establish it. It is the only way to move forward.

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Author: Dave Brock

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