How to become a purpose-driven business: step two



We probably don’t need to say it again, but we will…research from across the globe make it spectacularly clear that there are so many reasons for a business to become purpose-driven.


Not just in perception, but in reality.


There’s now clear evidence that commitment to a meaningful purpose:


  • Provides a guiding principle for all decision making;


  • Drives effective and lasting customer engagement;


  • Energises and engages teams; and,


  • Sets your business apart from the crowd.


Oh…it also seems purpose-driven businesses outperform their peers financially by quite a handsome margin.


In our last post...


We talked about taking the first practical steps toward becoming a purpose-driven business - discovering (or rediscovering) purpose, defining it and creating a purpose statement.


Purpose that will help your business achieve the outcomes above.


As we also said, the “what next” isn’t a linear process given that purpose should permeate everything your business does.


Happily though, there's a logical point to start. And that’s with your business vision and strategic plan.


Purpose drives Vision


If purpose is the underlying reason your business exists, vision is the statement that focuses on where you see the business at some time in future (we rather arbitrarily suggest looking five years out) if it is to at that point be “true to purpose."


With a clear purpose, it’s easy to articulate the vision for your business.


Without it, vision becomes tougher to communicate in a way that’s truly meaningful (or useful).


Here’s a challenge…


Consider the current vision (assuming you have one) for your business. Recite it to yourself then immediately ask a one word question. 




If you’re not sure of your answer, it’s likely purpose and vision in your business don’t line up.


Here’s an example we’ve used in a previous post.


At various times in the recent past, the NAB has stated its purpose as “backing the bold who move Australia forward”. Which we’d have to say is on its own pretty good - aspirational and realistic.


It’s vision? “To be the most respected bank in Australia and New Zealand”.


We mean no disrespect to NAB whatsoever when, in thinking about the vision, we ask “why”? Of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be respected or even “the most respected”.


The question in our mind is even if the NAB could in future objectively show it is, in fact, the most respected bank in Australia and New Zealand, would that necessarily mean it remains true to its purpose?


In other words, did they back the bold who move Australia forward?


Maybe, maybe not. And it’s the “maybe not” that creates issues - for customers and potential customers, for staff, for other stakeholders.


Oh…and it must confuse the life out of our Kiwi cousins given they’re not even mentioned in the bank’s purpose.


To achieve the benefits of being a purpose-driven business, it’s important to start with a clear link between purpose and vision.


Next...Vision drives Strategy


Got your purpose and vision in tune? Next step is to focus your attention on strategy.


As you work through the strategic planning process, setting the longer term priorities for your business, the “why” question is again a great one to keep in mind. Each strategic priority you establish for the business should clearly link to its vision and purpose. 


Here’s another challenge. 


Think about your current strategic plan (again, the assumption is you have one).


If you were asked to explain to a customer, to a staff member and to other stakeholders, how each strategic initiative in that plan would contribute to achieving your vision in the context of purpose how might you do it? More to the point, could you do it? 


If you’re unable to rise to that challenge and you’re satisfied your purpose and vision are sound, your strategy needs some work.


Getting the strategy right (that is, linked to vision and purpose) is without question a tough process. 


For example, it’s easy for a business to get sidetracked by what they see (or think they see) competitors doing strategically. That drives negative thinking along the lines of “we don’t want to get left behind so we better do what they’re doing”.


While an awareness of the competitive environment is one of the pre-requisites to sound strategic planning, it can’t be the driving force. If that’s what it becomes, you’ll find your business working to someone else’s purpose rather than yours. 


As Steve Jobs said:


“You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently.”


For best results...


You no doubt have your purpose under control by now because you acted on the suggestions in our last post!!


What we’re asking you to do now is to objectively review your vision and strategy in the context of that purpose.


How best to go about this? The answer is it depends on a whole range of factors including:


  • The size of your business: in a small business, it’s often possible to involve everyone in the process giving maximum opportunity for early buy-in to the process. In bigger businesses that may not be the case which means you may need to draw representatives from across functional areas to participate;


  • How in tune purpose, vision and strategy already are will dictate how much “remediation” (for want of a better term) and therefore how much time and effort will be needed;


  • Preparedness to drive the process internally: often it’s better to engage someone independent to facilitate, document and follow up the entire process; and


  • Propensity of people in the business to embrace change which will have a direct bearing on the “degree of difficulty” of the process.


In addition, the process should conducted as transparently as possible.


Communicate frequently across the business, repeat messages where necessary and use all appropriate types and channels of communication at your disposal. The last thing you need to at any stage is team(s) not being fully informed.


What’s next?


In this post and the last, we’ve covered the initial “big picture” steps to becoming a purpose-driven business. We think we’ve made the benefits of doing so pretty clear.


Next up, we’ll cover something a bit more micro - making sure your business and action plans are focused on purpose.


We’ll also dig into setting and managing expectations of individual team members in terms of both performance on the job and broader behaviours required to support the business purpose.


Until then...


We reckon by now you might be thinking about what's possible in your business...


We'd be happy to talk you through embedding purpose and help you reach outcomes you probably didn't think possible.


In fact, we can't think of a good reason not to give us a call or drop us a line to start a conversation. 


At the very least, why not check out some of our previous posts?  There's quite a few posts on business purpose and related issues - we're sure you'll find some gems!


Join the conversation!


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