Today, the ability to continuously adapt and improve in ways that meaningfully serve your overarching business purpose is one of the most important strategy-making skills. A clear sense of purpose – purpose that’s shared across the organisation – has the greatest influence on the strategic performance required for thriving in today’s ever-changing business environment.
Creating a deep and layered sense of shared purpose across your organisation is essential for ensuring that your strategic execution activities have direction and a future-focus. More importantly, it’s the linchpin for ensuring your people are the driving force behind the strategic shift you hope to make rather than the thing that you need to shift.
With purpose, your strategic journey has direction – your enterprise has a strong sense of true north.
Shared purpose is one of the most important influences on your ability to translate strategy into operational reality and business results. Purpose sets the direction for your business’s future-focused activities. It’s the compass for setting the course of your strategic journey. It’s the barometer for determining strategic importance – for setting the priorities for your strategic activity. It’s the gauge for assessing whether your activities are making meaningful progress toward your strategic objectives.
Purpose ensures that strategic activity doesn’t require constant management attention to give it direction. It can serve as a beacon of light that inspires, guides and gives your strategy forward momentum. Your purpose can serve as a mirror for reflecting on every strategic decision you make and future-focused activity that you undertake.
Purpose has power when its shared
To imbue purpose with power, it must be shared. Your people need to understand it and embrace it at a level that relates to their jobs: to how they go about their work every day. You need to be clear that your business purpose exists as a guiding light for adaptation and improvement and that this adaptation will be continuous and involve the entire organisation. Your people need to know they will have a role in both shaping it and manifesting it in their operational interactions with your customers and each other.
For purpose to have power, it can’t simply be held closely by a select few in the organisation. It can’t be the solitary domain of the ‘thinkers’ in the business, who then tell the ‘doers’ how to apply their strategic thinking. This is when purpose becomes not simply a missing influence, but a detrimental one. This is when organisational change creates uncertainty and fear, which in turn breeds resistance. It is the birthplace of organisational inertia, which stands in the way of nimbleness and the ability to adapt.
Planning and prioritising
When your organisation has a shared purpose and a common understanding of what represents value for the business, you have the ability to differentiate that value. Then you can decide what is most important in the current circumstances and which strategic activities are the most critical in responding to those circumstances.
Strategy becomes less about faithfully following a plan and more about making good decisions in prioritising your strategic investment of money, time and attention.
Your strategic planning can become an ongoing process of synthesizing your current business environment and plotting the course for the next portion of your strategic journey – not just an annual activity that generates a ‘plan.’ You can use a clear purpose to re-assess your strategic priorities in light of the business change you’re experiencing or can see coming over the horizon. Are your intentional strategic activities still the right ones to focus on, or should they be adjusted slightly? Are there emerging issues or opportunities you should prioritise for better strategic positioning?
When purpose is shared across your organisation, then all your employees are better positioned to recognise threats or opportunities as they emerge. This allows them to feed these observations back into your strategic priority assessments. Better still, they begin generating ideas on how to mitigate these threats or seize a particular opportunity – specific ideas that can be subjected to strategic assessment.
Your entire organisation is thus better equipped to make decisions and course corrections on ongoing strategic activities without constant management attention. They can shape the activities, scope and deliverables as well as maximise the return of your strategic project investments much more effectively when they understand the context of the project’s targeted outcome.
As your organisation’s strategic maturity develops, your people will begin to shape their operational activities to deliver greater strategic value. They will understand the value of a positive customer experience in retaining and delighting existing customers. They will recognise the value of an innovative approach or a clever solution to a problem and will share these for strategic deployment across the business.
In this way, you start to close the loop – your strategic efforts not only improve the operational elements of your business, but your operational activities begin to shape your strategy.
Do you have a business purpose that shapes your strategic direction? How effectively is that purpose shared by your people? Does it shape their actions and activities – is it connected to the work they do every day?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.