I hope the days of vision and mission statements are nearly over. They’re the paperwork of traditional management models. They’re strategic compliance, and as such, they get deliberated over at great length and then forgotten. For the most part, they’re also self-centred – all about what the organisation wants to achieve for itself, all about how it intends to achieve whatever it deems important. They often don’t suit the much more open, interactive, social ways in which business is increasingly being done.
Visions and missions are words – sometimes very nice words – but that’s it. As Truman Capote once said, “that’s not writing, that’s just typing”.
A clear and vivid purpose on the other hand is much more demanding. It’s collective and individual. It stalks the organisation with a conscience. It describes what a brand knows must change in the world and the role the brand sees for itself in helping to achieve that change. It explains why people come to work. It gives each person a reason to be proud. It calibrates and guides thinking. It’s impatient. It’s optimistic. It’s the benchmark against which all actions are measured. It refuses to shut up.
The old benchmark: What purpose does this task/idea/approach serve?
The new benchmark: How does this task/idea/approach serve our purpose?
In actual fact, a purpose is a company’s mindset strategy. It determines the headspace in which people come to work and in which a company goes to market and competes. A wonderful purpose lays out an extraordinary intention that separates that brand from other brands around it.
Get your purpose right – and you have a cause that is powerful enough for people to leap out of bed every weekday morning and get to work. They are quite literally looking to make a change to the world they believe in because, as Hugh MacLeod expressed it so perfectly, “Life is too short not to do something that matters”.
This morning – what on earth did you come to work to change? The answer to that should never, ever just be filed.
Image titled “Purpose” taken by Sidewalk flying (Seth Sawyers), sourced from Flickr