Becoming a Purpose-Driven Organization


          Purpose has become an increasingly hot topic.  Recently I met on the phone with a team of four people.  They were responsible for the implementation of purpose and culture change in a large financial institution.  We had an hour-long discussion.  In the final minutes the leader did something that very much impressed me.  He said, “Let’s do a round robin.  Each of us should share the single most important idea we have gleaned.”

The first person indicated that she had a new appreciation for how crucial it is to really reach the middle managers.  Previously they were putting in place some conventional implementation routines.  Now she had to rethink those routines.  She had to recognize the defenses in the typical middle manager and learn how to transcend them.  They had to put more commitment, investment, and creativity into reaching and converting the middle managers.

The second person indicated she had a new appreciation for simplicity.  The organization had a purpose statement, nine value pillars, and a newly introduced point of emphasis.  There was too much complexity.   The message did not lend itself to understanding, embracing, or implementing the desired change process.  To succeed they had to change their thinking and create a more simple and powerful message.

The third person indicated that she had a new appreciation for the power of stories.  The conceptual work was meaningless unless there were meaningful images that altered understanding.  She needed to comb the organization for examples of people living the purpose and she had to create effective videos and share these widely and effectively.  The mode of communication had to change.

The fourth person indicated that he had a new appreciation for the notion of bold signals.  If the new purpose was real, then new and courageous decisions should be occurring, first at the top and then at other levels.  Such decisions would not be consistent with existing expectations.  Such decisions were bold signals to the organization, signals of real change.  He had to hold senior management accountable to making new decisions based on the purpose and he had to see that everyone was exposed to the bold signals.

These conclusions are the keys to transformation.  As I pondered these conclusions, I determined that it was a very good hour.


  • Is your organization becoming more purpose driven?
  • What is the purpose and the values of your organization? Are they simple, clear, and meaningful?  How are they communicated?
  • What is necessary for your organization to become more purpose driven?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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