What is the Philosophy of an Organization?
In the model of the Five Ps, just outside of the Purpose is the organization’s Philosophy. Where the Purpose states “why” the organization exists, the Philosophy directs “how” employees do their work. And “how” you do work matters. The Philosophy directs behavior across the organization. In successful organizations, employees consistently use the Philosophy to guide their decisions and daily actions.
The Philosophy may be one value or a small set of values. Of course, many values may feel important, but the Philosophy is only the value or values that are fundamental, distinguishing and enduring to the organization. They are the beliefs that have been essential and core to the character of the organization over the years. Employees believe that their Philosophy distinguishes their organization from others, particularly those which fulfill a similar Purpose. And the Philosophy is the enduring core beliefs that should never change. The Philosophy is extremely important.
The Philosophy is like the personality or character of the organization. This character is typically derived from the organization’s founder, or from the principles and ideals that drove the organization’s creation.
The Philosophy is what employees believe in today, what was most important in the past and what will continue to be important in the future. Where the Purpose is the heart of the organization, the Philosophy is its soul.
The Five Philosophy Criteria
- Is it a prime value?
- Does it guide “how” we do our work?
- Is it a source of our distinction?
- Is it derived from our founder/leader or the ideals that drove the organization’s creation?
- If changed, would that alter the character of the organization?
Key Points about Philosophy
- Philosophy is a value or small set of values that are fundamental, distinguishing and enduring to the organization.
- Philosophy is the special attribute that the founder/leader possesses that has influenced the character of the organization.
- Philosophy is the source of the organization’s distinctiveness.
- The Philosophy provides the enduring framework for “how” employees do their work.
What is Organizational Identity?
Organizational Identity = Purpose + Philosophy
The Purpose and the Philosophy are the identity of the organization. As a unit, they are the central attributes that have defined the character of the organization and the cause that it has served over the years.
The elements of Organizational Identity serve as the basis for all aspects of the business. Any change to either the Purpose or the Philosophy will have a significant impact on the organization and its employees. Preserve these attributes. Only change them with a clear understanding that this is monumental change required for survival. When you alter either the Purpose or the Philosophy, the organization will feel like a different organization; employees will need to reevaluate their connections to it, and many Practices will need to be altered.
Organizations seek change to improve and prosper. But often the change that is needed the most is for everyone in the organization to be better at being who you say you are. The challenge is to more consistently practice the principles of the organization’s identity.
Key Points about Organizational Identity
- Together, the Purpose and the Philosophy constitute Organizational Identity.
- Organizational Identity is the enduring essence of an organization.
- The organization’s identity is the unique product of its history — not something that can be copied from others. It must be authentic.
- Organizational Identity serves as the anchor that grounds an organization and the filter through which it screens its actions.
- Any change to the Purpose or the Philosophy can have a major impact on the organization and its employees.