How to Grow Towards a Higher Organizational Purpose

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How to Grow Towards a Higher Organizational Purpose
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
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.

Envision a Social Purpose
Jorge Sanint, Consultant, Congo, Member
All organizations need to be driven by a social purpose. Economic benefits will come as a consequence. Creating shared value, as Porter states, is not just one way to achieve it, it's the way. Leading organizations need to envision a social purpose to have an inspired workforce.

Purpose Must be Defined Outside-In
john mortimer, Business Consultant, United Kingdom, Member
I use the purpose as the most powerful focus for everyone in the organisation, but there is one thing that is important: the purpose has to be defined from an outside-in perspective.
With that I mean that the customers of the organisation define the purpose, so the focus of the organisation is oriented in the right direction.

Definition of a Higher Purpose
Graham Williams, Management Consultant, South Africa, Premium Member
Great topic Jaap. There is no doubt that an organization of members true to a properly stated purpose will achieve much.
A HIGHER purpose provides everyone with meaning, something that transcends who they are. Nowadays economic, social and environmental imperatives dictate that our 'customers' are also all other stakeholders - including activists, suppliers, competitors... On many occasions. An organisation is responsible for arriving at and living its own higher purpose. For example, in simple terms, Southwest Airlines higher purpose of connecting people provides meaning, informs all of their behaviours (living the purpose)...
See my article: Corporate Stampede to Purpose.

Definition of Purpose by the Customers
Soraya Arteaga, Canada, Member
@john mortimer: Having the purpose defined by the customers is, as you suggest, ‘of utmost importance’. Adding checks and balances that ensure the vision is truly customer-driven avoids lip service and hubristic accountabilities under guise of data driven direction.

Enhancement of Stakeholders Economic Benefit is Always an Implied Agenda in Organizations
C.L. Kappagomtula, Professor, Malaysia, Member
Yes, the onset of Internet and its off-shoots; IIOT, Cloud, Block-chain and Bitcoin, do all call for a highly skilled, knowledge driven workforce in any strategic business unit in the world.
What all these advanced and still evolving sophisticated technologies have in common is one vital purpose, which is enhancing the organization's return on investment, with an as long as possible planning horizon for the economic venture undertaken by them.
A higher organizational purpose, whatever it might be, without 'economic returns' in an increased quantum, has no purpose for any agenda in business. Modern day organizations have to constantly upskill their workforce in rhythm to new technological evolution, unless they don't mind frequent job turnovers of their workforce who cannot cope and are not upskilling themselves. The modicum for achieving this may adopt different routes.

How to Grow Towards a Higher Organizational Purpose
Graham Williams, Management Consultant, South Africa, Premium Member
@C.L. Kappagomtula: Profit is vitally important of course. Long term, sustainable profit within the context that the firm operates - economic, social and environmental - is more important. Hence the move away from outdated 'profit maximization'...
Incidentally, an exciting mind-set shift has been to recognize that the "customer" includes internal customers (employees) and external customers (purchasers, activists, government, suppliers, other stakeholders ... This opens a wealth of new opportunity and results in more (traditional) custom ...

Discussion Focus: HOW to Move to a Higher Organizational Purpose
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
The aim of this posting is not to discuss IF or WHAT value orientation (economic / stakeholder / combination / shared) is best. That very important and complex topic is already covered and discussed extensively in the knowledge centers I mentioned above in my main posting.
Let's focus this discussion instead on HOW an organization can move towards a higher organizational purpose, if (after) it decides that this is the way it wants to move forward. In other words: What are the steps and conditions to grow towards a moral or higher purpose?

The 'Buy In' for Change
S. Lago, Business Consultant, Canada, Member
Great topic! Changing to a purpose driven organization requires a commitment to following this process from the top down. Anything else is lip service.
That said, Implementing these changes from top down AND bottom up ie. upper management AND entry level workers will bring change the most quickly.
Those in the middle will adapt and embrace the change or leave the organization/be replaced.

Keys to Achieving a New Organizational Purpose
Sridhar Gopal, Management Consultant, India, Member
Am currently working on a similar assignment and that makes it all the more interesting to contribute my thoughts on this. I guess have understood the "purpose of this post" right!
  • Constitute and prepare the leadership to frame, define meaning, scope and expected outcomes of the Purpose. This team is as important as the purpose and also acts as the parent which will prevent the purpose from being orphaned in the long term.
  • A purpose cannot have infinite life so define a time frame, key stakeholders and benefits. The success of the purpose program is as successful as its clarity in defining benefits.
  • A well designed purpose "framework" is a key tool in this program. Use the 8 point suggestion in this post as a template (modify if req) while preparing a 'document of purpose'.
  • Form a third party audit team to evaluate the conformance by the organization. The audit team measures the deviations from the purpose and can suggest remedies through its periodic reports.

How to Grow Towards a Higher Organizational Purpose Seen from Quantum Theory of Physics?
Prof. Arup Barman, Professor, India, Premium Member
This discussion on how an organization can grow towards a higher organizational purpose has attracted my mind. I could see the answer not from the point of management but want to see it from the point of a "science paradigm" that is quantum theory of physics. What is a higher purpose of any organisation seen from that perspective?
I argue the higher purpose of organisation is maintaining the balance or equilibrium between the growth and greed for growth. No doubt, how to accomplish this is a multi-billion dollar question. But it can be achieved through the ancient knowledge and theorem that was in Indian philosophy. I want to articulate the answer from the point of quantum logic if the management scientist believe it in true spirit. Quantum mechanics need to be inserted to the managerial thinking for establishing equilibrium and optimisation. Bringing optimisation everywhere through sacrifice, enjoyment through sacrifice, development through sacrifice should be goal. I am looking for cooperation to write a generic piece on the Indian philosophy to support the question.

How to Grow Towards a Higher Organizational Purpose
Graham Williams, Management Consultant, South Africa, Premium Member
Put simply, a higher purpose is what the organization aspires to BE, why it exists. Such a purpose when sincere, shares relevant umbrella values, principles, behaviors, and ethics; and gives meaning, enhances reputation, and boosts the bottom line.
The question "how to grow towards a higher organizational purpose" is a "left brain" what must we DO or 'what steps must we take?' question... Whereas higher purpose - driven organizations are in a BEING mode that leads to doing. A closed-loop system. So it's like a "catch 22" question!
A clue: revelatory awareness is a good start-point!

Identifying your Organisation's Higher Purpose
Maurice Hogarth, Consultant, United Kingdom, Premium Member
By defining the business you are in (at third level thinking) you are defining the higher organisational purpose. For example, consider:
  • Are you in the letters-parcels delivery business or in the keeping promises business? (“It’ll be there by…”)
  • In the ‘care’ business, at third level thinking, you are in the ‘trust’ business. You are being trusted to provide the needed care and consideration.
  • Etcetera.
Consider the outcomes of the features and benefits outputs that your personal product-service mix delivers to your end-user / customer (internal) to see what personal business you are in.
What outcomes does your organisation deliver to the customer. What is it that your organisation ultimately enables / provides for the end user (trust, safety, security, happiness…)? What is the desire that causes the continuing income, that provides for the viability, profits and share-returns? Studying and identifying this in-depth will indicate the higher purpose of your organisation.

How to Pursue a Dual Financial + Social Purpose
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Also take a look at the recent article of Professor Julie Battilana et al. Who mention 4 management processes which have proven to be the most effective and successful levers for pursuing a dual corporate purpose.

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