Making Principles Make a Difference: Putting Purpose into Practice
I’ve written many times about the importance of having a sense of purpose, a cause that drives your business forward. It can be a unique product you’re passionate about, a principle you stand for, even an approach to service that you want to bring to the world.
But while a sense of purpose is important, it’s equally important that you’re able to put it into practice. So how do you ensure that your purpose is usable, that it drives your business rather than becoming window dressing.
Build the Right Framework
A purpose will achieve nothing if your business practices don’t spread and encourage it. As Amanda Shore has pointed out, you need to build a framework within your business to do this. There should transparency about how the purpose is applied, positive feedback for those following it, and a clear statement of what it is and how it works.
But you also need to get into the nitty gritty details. If you want employees to embody your organisation’s purpose then there need to be goals in their work that reflect the purpose, and measures of whether they are achieving those goals through their specific work. You need to make sure that business practices and procedures match the purpose.
The purposeful framework has to reach every corner of your business.
Build the Right Teams
Your rules and procedures are only one part of what makes up your organisation. Without your teams there would be no-one to follow your purpose, and so you need to ensure that those teams are recruited, structured and managed in a way that supports your goals and values.
Building a team isn’t easy, and there are plenty of ways you can get it wrong. One of the most important things is making it specific to you. Make sure that you’re recruiting people who will enjoy working toward your purpose, and whose skills match your goals, not just generic ideals of what makes a good administrator, manager or call handler.
Structure the teams around your purpose. If your aim is creativity and innovation then you need to make sure someone in every team is responsible for making this happen, and that you don’t have a restrictive hierarchy. If you want to ensure that all staff members get high levels of support then you may need to create small teams so managers have time for everyone under their care.
Above all, think about what teams you need. Don’t burden yourself with dozens of oversight teams and committees if your aim is flexibility and creative freedom. Don’t separate administration from customer service if you want the personal touch. And don’t create layering if you want a flat, open culture.
Build Links Between Culture and Strategy
This brings us around to one of the most important steps in creating a purposeful business – connecting culture and strategy. As Jamie Notter has pointed out, the recent focus on culture, while good, has led to it being seen as something separate from, even in opposition to, focusing on strategy. But culture and strategy should be driving toward the same goal – fulfilling your purpose – and if you’re to avoid clashes then they need to be linked.
Strategy should be an embodiment of your culture, and culture a support for strategy. If your strategy requires fast expansion then it won’t pair well with a close knit, family-like culture, but might fit with something youthful and exuberant.
Appropriate practices, well-shaped teams, and links between culture and strategy, are important in ensuring that you fulfil your purpose. But ultimately, it all comes down to one thing – creating a business capable of walking your talk.