“Purpose doesn’t make decisions easy; it makes them clear.” Roy Spence
79% of business leaders surveyed by PwC believe that an organisation’s purpose is central to business success, yet only 34% said it guided their decision-making.
It’s surprising that so many companies believe in purpose but so few appear to be guided by it. Never before has the corporate world been under such scrutiny to focus on social goals such as climate change and diversity as well as profits. While there has been progress, it doesn’t seem for many to be a driver for change in its own right.
The dialogue around purpose is increasing, but is it just that? Is it just an add-on for business to improve their CSR credentials?
Purpose is the North Star of an organisation, or as the well-known author of Grow the Pie, Alex Edmans, says “the answer to the question: how is the world a better place by your company being here?”
Apple’s success and fame is down to more than producing cutting-edge technology and design in personal computing, their purpose is to “empower creative exploration and self-expression”. It guides them in every decision they make.
Why does it matter?
Top to bottom implementation
So, where do things typically go wrong?
Successful implementation of a purpose-driven strategy requires an organisation to re-evaluate and adjust its policies, processes, and procedures to ensure they support employees and other stakeholders. Consideration must be given to whether new mechanisms are required to support the change and, when the implementation is agreed, clear communication is needed to ensure everyone understands, supports, and subsequently embeds its purpose into the soul of the organisation.
Where companies have their purpose at the heart of what they do, employees tend to be more emotionally connected to the business and understand how they personally contribute.
The changes needed to implement purpose don’t stop at the workforce either, they will involve a change in focus for the board as well as the decision-making mechanisms across the business to ensure purpose is front and centre.
Purpose is a never-ending process — it never stops, it just evolves. As a business matures and grows, its purpose needs to be reviewed and reconnected to everyone, continually.