I’ve had two strategy books published. And over the last decade I’ve worked with dozens of organisations on their strategy.
Yet it’s only in the last two or three years that I’ve really understood the importance of having a clear organisational purpose at the heart of your organisation. In that time, I’ve worked with several executive teams where I’ve seen the impact of creating and articulating a purpose both on the energy of the team and the quality of the subsequent strategy.
Last week, for example, I worked with the leaders of a small, but fast-growing healthcare business. Ahead of a session on its core purpose, the discussion was quite dry, technical and financially-focused. The team were making progress on their strategic issues, but were struggling to really coalesce around a single strategic theme.
We then spent an hour or so discussing the underlying purpose of the business and what it was there to do other than generate profits. Very rapidly, the dynamic of the conversation was transformed from a debate about margins and supply chain effectiveness to one where the focus was about saving lives, improving health and simply making people happier.
After this discussion on core purpose, the team were able to strip out some less-important actions from their emerging plan and focus far more clearly on the tasks that will best help the business deliver its purpose quickly.
It’s always been the same.
The first session I ran on developing a core purpose was with the Topps Tiles’s executive team. Their ‘strapline’ of “inspiring customers through our love of tiles” took only a matter of minutes to develop, but it has acted as a ‘true north’ to the team’s decision-making ever since. Topps’s move into the UK commercial tile market (offices, hotels, restaurants etc.), for instance, was developed as it allowed the business to better achieve its purpose and inspire more customers.
So, it’s now unsurprising to me that those companies with a clear core purpose – and whose leaders live up to that purpose – outperform their rivals who aren’t so purpose-led. Decision-making becomes so much clearer and easier and their teams are simply far more focused and engaged.
What is the purpose of your company? And, if you don’t have one, how could you benefit the lives of your customers, your people, your investors and the wider world if you did?
© Stuart Cross 2019. All rights reserved.