An Inspiring Purpose

Creating long-term alignment within your company


January 28, 2020

People & Organizations

3 min.

People in organizations are generally preoccupied with achieving something based on various motives. But aligning these people as a team that works together does not always come naturally. It takes a unifying reason, an overarching goal to activate the willingness for collective effort.

That’s why the question of a company’s purpose is so important. But is this purpose clearly and unambiguously defined in your company? Can it be recognized in people’s daily activities? Usually, there is an intuitive or implicit understanding of the purpose, but it’s less common for people to address it directly or consciously use it as a point of reference in day-to-day work.

Significance of Purpose

A purpose, similar to a mission statement, describes the core identity of a company, as well as its most important products or services, in a few precisely worded sentences. It is not a vision or a strategy, but the reason for existence and the source of inspiration for the organization’s future development.

A good purpose answers questions such as:

  • What do we stand for? What is important to us?
  • What distinguishes us and what makes us stand out?
  • What makes us successful, especially in the eyes of our customers?
  • What is the relevance of our activities beyond our organization?
  • What potentials do we want to realize as a whole?

Because such a purpose has long-term effects, it’s worth investing some time and effort to create a proper wording. A small team with representatives from different areas of the company is an ideal setting for this. Working together on these questions, you may be surprised how similar the ideas are that people have of their organization as a whole – no matter what perspective or role they originally come from. In the process of verbalizing these ideas and images and by making them transparent, something unifying and unique takes shape.

Focusing on Potentials

Creating a purpose can feel like an unfamiliar task because it involves abstracting from daily business in order to verbalize intuitive or implicit knowledge. Here, it is especially valuable to integrate ideas from the entrepreneur’s manifesto. Often, patience is required for everyone to exchange their perspectives and integrate the various feedbacks.

But it is precisely this exchange that creates valuable synergies with lasting effects and motivates people to hone in on higher goals. The focus shifts away from the problems and obstacles of daily business and towards the potential at the heart of the company, and a positive dynamic is set in motion. What’s more, as a side effect of this collective focus, the groundwork for a culture of dialogue can be established – a solid foundation for constructive and innovative communication.

Living the Purpose

However, just because a text is published and some nice posters have been put up on the wall doesn’t mean the work is done! In order for a good purpose to unfold its power and potential, it needs to anchor all of a company’s moving parts and be discussed regularly. The purpose is the reference for all visions and strategies to be developed in the coming years. Its effects can be felt all the way down to individual agreements on objectives and even find their way into the definition of KPIs for monitoring success and results.

Then, individual teams can also define their own objectives derived from the company’s collective purpose. Brainstorming together about how to realize the team’s assignments in a way that contributes to realizing the company’s overarching goal creates an identification with the company and fosters connection among the team members.

Thus, the development of a purpose really is only the first step in a transformational process that can lead to positive and sustained realignment throughout an entire organization. By integrating the team into the process of developing and implementing change, motivation increases and individuals come to identify more fully with the whole. Supported by clear values as well as visions and strategies, teams and organizations can realize their purpose with both passion and better results.


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What is your unifying purpose?

Swaan Barrett guides you and your team in developing and establishing an inspiring purpose as part of an integrative transformational process.

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