Most companies have some understanding of what their purpose is. This is especially true of organisations where the founding team is still in charge. They will, after all, have started the company for a specific reason.
One thing that organisations of all sizes occasionally struggle with, however, is combining that purpose with a well-defined strategy. It’s easy enough to know what you want to do (and why you want to do it). Less simple is defining how you’re going to do it.
Importantly, this tension in aligning strategy with purpose can occur at any point in an organisation’s lifecycle.
Changing conditions in the outside world can scramble how a company goes about achieving its purpose.
Dozens of companies that were once household names and are now shadows of their former selves bear witness to this.
Take Kodak for example. Broadly speaking, its purpose was to help people capture the important moments in their lives.
Unfortunately, it let that purpose be overtaken by its strategy of selling as many rolls of film as possible. Consequently, it missed out on the digital camera revolution, despite one of its own employees having invented it.
So, what can you do to ensure your strategy and purpose are in sync?
Put purpose first
If you’re fortunate enough to have a well-defined purpose, it’s important that you put it at the forefront of everything you do.
Every time you’re about to strike a deal, ask how it will help you achieve your purpose. If you’re going to move or revamp your offices, ask yourself the same question.
It should determine every hire you make and should be at the forefront of your employee training initiatives.
Review it regularly
One way of ensuring that all your strategic initiatives are in line with your purpose is to periodically review them.
Sitting down and looking at whether all the projects and initiatives you’ve put in place have contributed to your purpose is a crucial exercise. Not only does it help remind your team about what your purpose is, it can go a long way to ensuring that you don’t spend too much time and too many resources on something that could ultimately prove wasteful.
One thing that’s important to remember, especially when you look at the likes of Kodak, is that you should never conflate the technology you use with your purpose. Rather, you should view it as a means to achieving your purpose.
You should, therefore, always be looking at how new and emerging technologies can help you achieve that purpose.
While you should always exercise caution when it comes to investing in a new technology, if you can see that adopting it will help you achieve your purpose, then you should throw your weight behind it.
You might have found a radical new strategy that you think will do amazing things for your organisation. Or you might be looking at a new strategy, but are unsure of whether you really want to go ahead with it.
Either way, communicating with your team is vital. If you’re gung-ho on a strategy, a dialogue with your team will help you identify whether there are any holes in it and if you’re unsure, they can erase any fears you might have.
If you’re nervous about taking the team into your confidence, remember that you’ve chosen them because they understand your organisational purpose.
Finally, it’s vital that you remember that an organisation’s purpose isn’t something immutable. It can evolve over time.
If you’re prepared to evolve with it, then you’re much more likely to survive in the long term.