How to Grow Towards a Higher Organizational Purpose

Moral Purpose
Knowledge Center

Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

How to Grow Towards a Higher Organizational Purpose

In the past, quite a lot of senior executives, especially those with an Anglo-American business education background, had an economic view of the purpose of any firm. They believed that creating long-term value for the shareholders is the (only) thing that matters. They typically viewed employees as self-interested agents who needed to be controlled by strict, hierarchical processes and procedures.
Other people thought that perhaps a stakeholder value orientation was better. In such perspective, companies are seen as networks of parties and people working together towards a shared goal and not merely as 'economic machines'. In any stakeholder value approach, employees are a dominant or even strategic stakeholder, along with the shareholders.

Following the arrival of the internet and fast-changing network economy, hierarchical organizations are less and less 'en vogue', and organizational commitment (also called employee engagement) is more important than ever. Quinn and Thakor (2018) make a case that only highly motivated and engaged knowledge workers can bring the high levels of innovativeness that are required in today's ultra-competitive world. They recommend companies (with a high number of professionals) to adopt an authentic “higher purpose” to get their employees to bring their smarts and energy to work and suggest the following practical 8 Steps to Create a Purpose-Driven Organization:
  1. Envision an inspired workforce.
  2. Discover the purpose.
  3. Recognize the need for authenticity.
  4. Turn the authentic message into a constant message.
  5. Stimulate individual learning.
  6. Turn midlevel managers into purpose-driven leaders.
  7. Connect the people to the purpose.
  8. Unleash the positive energizers.
⇒Do you agree with these steps to create a purpose-driven organization?

Source: Robert E. Quinn and Anjan V. Thakor, "Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization: How to Get Employees to Bring their Smarts and Energy to Work", HBR Jul-Aug 2018, pp.78-85.

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  Jaap de Jonge
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  S. Lago
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  Sridhar Gopal
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