Purpose Driven- Why should I care?
Everyone around us, given a chance, would like to work in an organisation where there is coherent passion towards mission and resulting work is meaningful and impactful. It doesn’t necessarily bubble up in conversations or emotions in one-on-one and town-hall meetings. Surely not the same way as what you would hear about other employee aspirations like better compensation or benefits or promotions, all of which are more extrinsic and easily expressible.
The feeling to work for purpose that is bigger than you and organisation is intrinsic and invisible, just like proverbial iceberg has large hidden part below water.
Let us look at this problem from two lenses — organisational leadership and employees. We could look at it from customers perspective as well, but we would skip that part in this article.
Typically organisational leaders get attracted to solve the extrinsic issues that are visible and can give relatively immediate results. Intrinsic issues are unfortunately harder to diagnose and solve.Capillaries and pores would have developed inside organisation due to ignorance or lack of action. Any real action from management needs deep dive and empathy to seep in to fill developed cracks. They don’t realise that purpose is not business strategy. They find it difficult to triangulate purpose between customers, employees and business.
With organisations living quarter to quarter buried under shareholder expectations, action to align purpose gets delayed, deprioritised and exponentially harder for leaders.
From employee’s perspective, typically they are ignorant of this gap between their innate aspirations and visible organisational direction. They feel frustrated or sapped of energy. They don’t ask deep questions to themselves or to their managers. Few cases, employees put complete onus on their manager to ensure their work and career is aligned and meaningful, without sharing their inner voices.
With watery intervention and insipid handwaving, employees continue to feel their work is not purposeful or meaningful to them, with occasional rumblings to their managers.
Where does this widening chasm in vision and purpose between organisation and employee lead us? For sure, it impacts untapped potential of both employee as well as organisation. Lost and wasted potential doesn’t even come forth for boardroom discussions or converted to deficit to financial bottomline. Lack of purpose or impact results in employee turnover or toxicity of work environment.
It is time to acknowledge that vision and purpose of organisation and employee need to be aligned. Steps need to be taken by both employee and leaders and organisation needs to create culture to foster those steps. If done well, driven culture that is visibly fed by collective purpose of organisation and employee, would germinate.
Let us talk about couple of examples where companies have compelling purpose driven vision and where customer or products are not inserted. Tesla is known for differentiated electric vehicles , but their purpose is bigger “ To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. Ted is known for the slick presentation, amazing speakers and deep topics, but their purpose is very simple and yet lofty “Spread Ideas”. We can imagine how employees and leaders would be able to connect and align their work in these companies.
While above examples do give us a glimpse of how important is it to start your companies with purpose , but is that enough? We can all bet that it is not unless you are a small ten employee startup living and dining in one room every day. How can we translate the higher level purpose to culture on the ground where employees see that as a fuel to work with passion? Are there any proven templates to navigate from lofty organisation purpose to employee satisfaction? Are there qualitative or quantitative metrics to measure the success or detect the failures? Let us delve deeper.
I’ll like to introduce a management framework that would attempt to help you in navigating these questions and build purpose driven company culture. This framework is influenced by one of the very inspiring books I read called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I’m hoping that you can relate to this framework both as a leader and as an employee. Having engineering and management experience, I have explained this framework with some nuances of engineering process workflow.