Organisational cultures never change by themselves! What changes them are individual behaviours, and when consolidated, a cultural transformation takes place.
The Need for Rationality
Companies are born from a big idea that becomes a purpose in a hurry. To bring these ventures to life, they set certain foundational strategic objectives whose underlying intention is to transcend and endure, and this is achieved through growth -additional markets, new products, M&A- and transformation -new leadership and initiatives-.
Not so long ago, we assumed that the capacity to grow and transform were infinite; however, reality shows us the opposite. Resources are scarce, people are more rational with their consumption, commitment to the environment is entropic.
The limits are a fact.
In addition, these situations often generate a sort of tectonic shifts in corporate culture that end up impacting the organisation’s performance. Therefore, it is also necessary to unite people who belong to the business platform (to keep it simple, consider the business platform as a group of companies behind a single brand), focus on actions and connect key audiences around a simple and compelling idea that synthesises the raison d’être of the company.
The Need for Citizenship
Today, there is a blurred space between the social and business dimensions. Businesses feel the pressure to go beyond “doing well by doing good” because people, including their role as citizens, demand companies for a real positive contribution to society.
In this way, business impact could be understood under three aspects:
- Financial and Operational Results: responding in a holistic way that considers not only the company’s performance but also personal economic-financial circumstances.
- Social and Environmental Impact: Addressing seven of the eight Sustainability Principles (taken from the FSSD developed by The Natural Step, Sweden).
- For the planet: Extraction – concentrations of substances extracted from the earth’s crust, Conversion – concentrations of substances produced as a by-product of society, such as greenhouse gases, and Degradation – by physical means such as overfishing or over-exploitation of forests.
- For people: Health – hazardous working conditions; Influence – suppression of freedom of expression; Fairness – discrimination or unfair selection for jobs; and Meaning-Making – suppression of cultural expression.
- Experience: Response to one’s own knowledge and experience.
- Knowledge: Competence (the eighth principle), expertise and skills.
- Experience: Brand, customer, and user experiences.
No matter what one does, what’s written above gives meaning to life.
The company must inspire behaviours and motivations of its key audiences, including society at large. It must capture the true power of its purpose brought to life in every idea, in every action. And this goes beyond a succinct and superficial brand redesign exercise.
Purpose is what supports and nourishes the life-force of the organization giving energy and relevance to the company and its brand.
The Need for Always-On Transformation
Due to digitisation-driven new business models, markets and customer needs, the sources of disruption grow faster than our ability to “absorb and digest” them.
This has “transformed transformation” into a must and, as a result, purpose becomes even more important, providing consistency, coherence, clarity, and power.
Being a purpose-driven company provides an emotional bond that produces greater commitment.
In this sense, purpose serves as a compass that gives direction, linking and driving transformation efforts in a way that is understood by everyone.
The Need for Digital Everywhere in Business Environment
The idea of community has also been affected by the transformation processes, although as people we need to be connected.
Digitisation allows us to connect in multiple ways that facilitate how we interact with each other. The key is to prevent relationships from becoming insubstantial.
Purpose is what allows digital interactions to be meaningful.
This is because it gives a sense of shared values, which is the foundation that underpins community.
Purpose also facilitates digital transformation because it is an event that engages people across the whole business value chain, helping and motivating diverse efforts among all business stakeholders.
The Need for a Simple Solution
To bring the new purpose to life and drive culture transformation – changing habits, one by one – it is necessary to recognise both the company’s ambitions and present, as well as those values and legacies rooted over the years.
Purpose, brought to life through the company’s mission and vision, is a trigger for the way people do their work and make decisions at all levels of the company.
Companies must care for and nurture their purpose, the values and virtues it entails, and the possible correlation between the transactional sense of work and the impact on social, environmental and governance patterns.
From this arises the need to keep “under the radar” those variables associated with purpose, both qualitative and quantitative, to ensure that it is an element that lives in the day-to-day life of the organisation.
These metrics should address what drives the company’s performance in relation to the benefits it promises.
The Key Characteristics of Purpose
To clarify the essence of purpose and to avoid fancy and/or fake purposes, there are certain characteristics that through a litmus test the company should answer:
- Does the purpose reflect the company’s legacy, present and future ambitions?
- Does the purpose reflect a real need in society?
- Are the company’s decisions coherent with its purpose?
- Is the purpose lived with passion?
- Is the company’s purpose evident and compelling to key stakeholders?
- Are people more engaged with the company because of its purpose?
- Is the purpose resilient in the face of a world which changes without previous warning, erratically and chaotically?
The Need for Achievements
Purpose-driven companies have a recognised social and environmental impact, and this is recognised in the way people in their ecosystem – employees and partners – behave.
Issues such as meaningful work and value creation also become key. Purpose-driven companies provide opportunities for members of the system to make a difference, and this intrinsically makes people more engaged and motivated.
1. Purpose and Transparency – Be Aspirational
An executive and realistic purpose introduces a shared intention with impact beyond the organisation itself. It is not limited to profitable growth, but it is also committed to getting things done right.
2. Culture Transformation – Be Intentional
Purpose, mission, vision and promise provide a coherent, consistent, embedded and effective framework for people to understand the raison d’être of the company through its day-to-day activities.
3. Positive Impact – Be a Business for the Good
A genuinely large organisation -not in size, but in soul- lives a purpose that is bigger than its product and/or service offerings.
4. Role of Work – Be Effective
People need to endeavour and fight for some worthy aim that carries a true meaning for each individual in particular and society as a whole.