How to look at your organization through the lens of purpose

September 25, 2018

In this article we will explain how our performance system “management by missions” is a framework for activating purpose in your organization.

There is so much being said about purpose in organizations today its hard digest, whether it’s an answer to better team alignment, engaged employees or meaning at work, there are no shortage of helpful insights.  But one thing is becoming clear, purpose is good for business.

In an attempt to take it from the lofty to the practical, here we will present a framework to help you think about how to structure purpose within your organization.  We call it the Management by Missions system and we believe it is quite simply what Peter Drucker intended for organizations all along.  That being, the end game of business is not growth, profit or shareholder value – those, he would say, are outcomes.  But rather, the end game is a state of wellbeing for all stakeholders – where employees can flourish, where communities can be part of a company’s movement, and where society can be seen as collaborators and contributors to its vision.  The end game, then, is higher purpose.

Indeed, lofty and perhaps why we’re struggling to see purpose as merely more than a marketing or engagement tactic.  With purpose as our endgame, everything we do in the organization from its strategies, its practices, processes and behaviors must be reconsidered.  This is Management by Missions.  A performance system that helps business leaders validate how well they are performing relative to their purpose and move their organization toward a more purpose-oriented performance model.

When looking at your organization from the perspective of purpose, you must first seek to understand how well you are performing around three critical connections:

Strategic Fit:  This relates to your strategic components – the business model, plan and principles.  You want to validated these for how well they “fit” together in fulfilling your purpose.

Authenticity:  This is the connection between your strategy and your leadership practices and behaviors.  If the organization’s values and actions are mis-aligned with its strategy and purpose, people will experience this as inauthentic leadership.

Coherence:  This is the connection between your strategy and business systems [i.e. compensation plans].  If your systems do not reflect and support your strategy and purpose, then you risk your systems actually working against the direction you are intending to go.

At a high level this all makes perfect sense.  But putting it into play, every day and ensuring integrity of the whole is hard work.  Hopefully this simple approach can help get you started in evaluating your organization through the lens of purpose.


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