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The power of purpose

This article includes a description and an extract of the new book, Why Purpose Matters: and how it can transform your organisation, recently written by Nicholas Barnett, CEO, Insync and Rodney Howard. The book will be available in June and launched in July 2017.

A book of three parts

The first part of this book tells the story of a fictitious business, FinServ, and the transformation it undergoes as it becomes purpose-led. The story begins with an organisation that has a proud history, strong commercial capabilities and an enviable market position. Yet, there is a recognition that “something is missing”. The resultant journey of discovery and realisation serves as a metaphor for what we typically see when we work with organisations that embrace purpose.

The second part of this book is a “how-to” guide. It explains what happens during each of the four stages that we recommend organisations traverse, as they bring purpose to life.

Nine CEOs have generously shared their experience of leading organisations as they become purpose-led. Their stories are detailed in part three. They provide a unique, first-hand account of their aspirations, the struggles they encountered and the benefits they witnessed. Their stories are testament to the potential that purpose unveils and we are grateful for their contribution.

An extract from Part 2

The potential of purpose

We have had the privilege of supporting many organisations to become purpose-led. Although there are differences in the way each approaches this exercise, the benefits gained are profoundly similar.

Ultimately, a greater sense of collective meaning and organisational identity is articulated through identifying and embedding purpose.

Purpose taps into a yearning for meaning that cannot be met simply by a set of objectives or financial targets. Connecting with a sense of collective meaning that provides a tangible reason for our personal endeavours is deeply enriching and fulfilling. Once clarified and embedded within organisational culture, it transforms the experience of employees and their engagement at work

Organisations with a strong sense of purpose, clear vision, well defined values and a clear strategic direction resonate a clear and compelling story from the inside-out. This drives customer connection and loyalty, particularly when that story becomes infused within the organisational brand. Done well, this will drive growth, productivity and higher shareholder return over the long-term.

Purpose enables bolder decision making and provides organisations with much needed ballast during the inevitable storms that challenge commercial endeavour. As purpose permeates through an organisation’s fabric, it builds resilience, genuine differentiation and a formidable and sustainable competitive advantage.

That is the potential of purpose.

Many organisations are bereft of purpose

Like you, we more commonly see organisations bereft of purpose, or those whose efforts at embedding purpose have withered or died.

In the absence of purpose, organisations almost inevitably become focused on metrics expressed as financial targets or growth objectives. This is often communicated as a desire to “maximise earnings and grow shareholder value”. While this model can drive strong short-term results, it misses our human need for purpose and our desire to engage in meaningful work. It fails to optimise employee and customer engagement and in our view is a limited and ultimately unsustainable model.

Four critical ingredients to success

In our experience, four ingredients are critical for a successful purpose journey.

i. A genuine desire to make a difference

Purpose is borne of a desire to make a contribution to something greater than self. It is rooted in our quest to find something worthy to serve that is meaningful and fulfilling. It is an articulation of our collective intent to contribute and improve the lot of humanity, and includes the genuine desire to improve the working lives of employees.

ii. Your CEO must sponsor the journey

Only your CEO has the authority, credibility and influence to sponsor purpose in an organisation. It is essential that your CEO is fully invested in purpose and committed to leading through every stage of the journey.

iii. An inclusive and participative process

A “top down” project, in which purpose is delivered Moses-like from the mountain, almost inevitably fails, as employees feel as though it is being done “to” them rather than “with” them. Ideally opportunities will be created forall employees to actively participate in such a way that they feel it is done “by” them and that they jointly own the purpose.

iv. A genuine and sustained leadership commitment

Purpose is not a short-term fix, nor is it something that can be delivered within a tight time frame. It requires a genuine and sustained leadership commitment for it to be meaningfully embedded within your culture and become your new way of organisational life.

Our framework for becoming a purpose-led organisation

We typically guide organisations through these four stages when partnering with them on a purpose journey.

Stage 1: Commit

Stage 2: Discover

Stage 3: Engage

Stage 4: Embed

What follows is a detailed expose of the important components within each stage.

If you would like to reserve an advance copy of this exciting new book please click here.

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