As companies move more and more to the schemes of empowerment they need to get the very best out of their people, their ability to use rules, procedures and tradition to guide those people becomes less and less. The rhetoric of yesterday is often insufficient to allow people to resolve the confusion generated by thinking about tomorrow. And yet empowered people still require guidance if they are to be fully efficient in working with their colleagues.

Ensure the needs and issues of all your Customers are clearly defined and understood, and that your people are systematically finding new ways to serve them better.

The concept of Purpose is about developing a sense of guidance which is "real-time" and develops as the situation and the people develop. It is about developing a clear and unambiguous picture of the role of the business, and what needs to be done to fulfil it. Key within this is the Concept of customers. Customers are those entities which you benefit by fulfilling your role - those whom you serve and add value.
Purpose is about developing a very clear understanding of whom your 'customers' are, and how you add value to them. This can be related from a global market perspective right down to how one department, or one person, serves others. To be fully effective it needs to deploy a global perspective right down to what that means in terms of one person serving another. Done well it can drive the design not only of products, but also of service offerings, processes and even places of work.
In its widest sense, Purpose also includes the concept of the Environment, since this is one way in which we can all add (or destroy) value for everybody else.
A lot has been written on teamwork, and how important it is to successful business enterprise. In times of stability it is possible to be efficient and effective through procedures, rules and habit. But business is not stable, procedures continually need updating, habits need improving. Change is too complex to be determined and addressed by one person, and so a business needs teamwork across all those involved in working with change if it is to successfully ride it. The one factor above all others that determines effective teamwork is that the team should have a common purpose.
Only a common purpose will provide the basis for transforming a group of independent thinking individuals into a team. And the quality and clarity of that purpose is key to harnessing creativity and industry in constructive, as opposed to conflicting, lines. Where commonality of purpose is clear great energy exists, where it becomes grey and blurred, rules and concessions lead to diffused energy and friction. The purpose of your business is what is in the minds of your people - definitions, rhetoric, assumptions, self interest and all. So how clear and common is the purpose of your business?
For most companies purpose only really becomes clear and common in times of crisis. Outside of this people accept the status quo but change is often resisted. Successful companies have often found ways to clarify and reconcile purpose without the attendant crisis, and the trick seems to be in finding where assumptions might exist, and then placing them on a firmer foundation. The key element of this for most companies boils down to three questions: Why are we here? Who do we serve? What do they really want?
Asked who your customers are, most people can answer, ask what those customers want and the same is true - ask "why?" and people will begin to make assumptions - they'll keep to the obvious conclusions, but most won't know for certain. Which is a pity because within those assumptions could be a wealth of new opportunities - ways to add value to the process by which they serve their customer. In managing “Tomorrow” understanding and reconciling purpose is key to harnessing and focusing their capabilities of the business.
Many mechanisms exist to explore the relationship and help the business focus on getting the real critical factors right. Effective management is in determining how clear purpose needs to be, and adopting the right mechanisms to provide and reconcile that clarification.
To understand more about 'Purpose':

 Exploration provides an understanding of the principles that underpin this aspect of the management process
 Evaluation provides a simple scale by which you might reflect on your own organisation's progress in this area
 Tools provides a brief overview of some of the approaches that are available to support further development

Move on to 'Philosophy'; Return to 'Systematic Management'


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