Purpose: Why is this Work Important?
The Purpose of an organization is the most central component of its culture. The Purpose defines why the organization exists. The Purpose is not the answer to the question “What does the organization do?” That typically focuses on products, services and customers. Instead, the Purpose is the answer to the question, “Why is the work of this company important?” This may sound like a simple question, but in its simplicity, lies tremendous significance for the organization and for each employee.
The Purpose is the cause that defines the contribution an organization makes to society through its work. Of course, businesses exist to make a profit, but they also exist to make a difference. Through their firm’s work, employees can make a difference and be part of a meaningful legacy. When an organization’s Purpose is meaningful to an employee, that person feels a connection to work that is not only rational—it’s also emotional.
Purpose Statement: Be Brief in Length and Broad in Scope
A Purpose statement is a few, crucial words that inspire and motivate employees who care about making that contribution. For example, the Purpose of a bread company might be, to nourish life. And the Purpose of an entertainment company might be, to make people happy. The Purpose statement is brief so employees can remember it and use it to guide their daily actions. Additionally, the Purpose statement is broad in scope to allow the organization to adapt over time to a changing world while keeping a constant, consistent central focus. Products and services often change, but the Purpose endures. Think of your company as a living entity; it is a vehicle for improving individual lives, and the world we live in.
Defining the Purpose: Include Everyone in the Process
When defining your company’s Purpose, be sure to include everyone in the process. Participation in the process builds commitment. Use small group discussions to come up with possible Purpose statements. Then, let everyone respond to a collection of options to see the statement that best conveys the fundamental reason why the company exists.
A Purpose statement does not have to be unique. Other organizations doing similar work may have a similar Purpose. Your Purpose should use words that are meaningful to employees and appropriate for your organization.
Purpose Statement: Screen Using the Six Criteria
Be sure your Purpose Statement meets the six Purpose criteria:
- It is a contribution to society—not a product or service.
- It answers the question: Why is this work important?
- It is inspirational and motivational.
- It uses powerful words.
- The statement is brief in length so employees will remember it.
- The statement is broad in scope to allow for future opportunities and change.
Use this worksheet for evaluating Purpose Statement Options: Organizational Purpose Statement Options To Be Evaluated
A Source of Meaning: Unite Employees with the Purpose
Take the time to unite employees around the organization’s Purpose so that work is more than daily tasks. Work should be viewed as a contribution to society and a source of meaning for each employee.