Purpose All The Way Down
The Quick Summary
It can be beneficial for a company to have a well-defined statement of purpose. It can be even more beneficial for that purpose to be intentionally and meticulously distributed down throughout the entire organizational structure. You can never have too much purpose alignment.
For the full story, keep reading.
Purpose At The Company Level
Purpose, mission statement, vision, reason for existing - whatever you call it, your company's goal matters. The importance and impact of a company's purpose is nothing new. More and more companies are seeing the value of defining an explicit purpose and transforming their operations to help bring that vision to life. Most of you have probably read at least one book about this very concept.
By putting in place a clear purpose for your organization, you create something for people to rally behind. An inspirational purpose can spur motivation and innovation. A clear purpose can make it easier to set goals and stay aligned. A tangible purpose allows you to constantly benchmark your success and watch your progress.
Check out this example of a Statement of Purpose:
Everyone has access to sustainable electronics needed to solve real problems.
It defines multiple goals within it that highlight their importance to the founding of the company. The electronics manufactured here should solve real problems. Thus, fun and flashy gadgets won't be made here, just things that truly matter. The electronics must also be sustainable. That certainly isn't an easy feat and may even take some time to accomplish, but the very reason this company exists is to make sustainable electronics, and that will play a major role in decisions. Finally, everyone must have access to these electronics. Again, an incredible challenge, but also a noteworthy hurdle to aim for.
Of course, there is a lot to think about when making a purpose, including avoiding common mistakes. But once you get your statement of purpose in place, you'll be much better off.
So, your company has a great purpose. Now what?
Purpose At The Department Level
Even with a clearly defined company purpose, that company still needs to structure itself into the many functions necessary to get work done. Typically, that is going to involve creating various departments. By bringing the company purpose down to each department level, you can continue the act of defining meaningful goals that help the broader vision.
This doesn't require creatively figuring out how to define a purpose that captures the higher purpose. Some companies practically copy/paste the purpose down to each department - and each team below that - as long as it still makes sense and appropriately highlights what work is being done in that organizational area.
This makes it easy in a glance to see how the needs of the organization as a whole are broken up at the highest level. It should be clear which departments are tackling which parts of the company's purpose. Here are some examples:
Manufacturing: Building sustainable electronics that solve real problems
Logistics: Ensuring everyone has access to our products
Finance/Sales: Making profit from products that everyone can afford
All together, we can see how every department is working on very different goals toward the same overarching purpose. Everyone has their part to play and we understand why. But it doesn't stop there.
Purpose At The Team Level
Unsurprisingly, every unique team also benefits from having their own purpose. Again, taking a slice from the pie of the company's purpose. Based on what department they are in, each team should already have an idea of what their purpose might be, because every team should be working on a piece of the puzzle necessary to accomplish the department's purpose.
As you get into these lower levels, you will start to see more varied purposes as the many separate tasks needed for a company to thrive begins to shine. The numerous teams in the Manufacturing department may do radically different work, but they are each contributing in some way to the goal of "Building sustainable electronics that solve real problems". While one team may exclusively be figuring out the sustainability option, another team might focus solely on solving problems. Completely different work but both necessary.
This is typically where defining purposes falls off, but it doesn't have to.
Purpose At The Project Level
While projects often have KPI's attached to them, they rarely have an explicit purpose statement. However, this is another great place to consider adding them in. It can help companies avoid pursuing projects just for the sake of trying something new even if nobody is really hyped about it. Otherwise, if a project has a purpose that inspires and motivates, people will be eager to work on it. They will have a better idea if that project excites them and can more clearly vision the end goal.
Purpose At The Individual Level
This is rarest of all, but still not unheard of in some of the most purpose-driven organizations. That's right - every individual person having their own statement of purpose. This can be an infallible mission for that person as an individual human, a declaration of what they want to contribute in this organization and why.
Likewise, it might also be a potentially temporary statement that changes based on someone's current job position. If transferring departments or changing some job responsibilities, their purpose might change to better reflect their new mission.
In either case, others can read the statement to see what inspires their coworkers and what they are aiming toward in the long-run. It can empower individuals to openly share what they are eager for and what drives them. It can act as yet another resource to help put together teams of people who not only have the skills to accomplish a goal, but who are individually passionate about that very task.
Does your organization have a statement of purpose that inspires? Do you have purpose all the way down that keeps everyone aligned and passionately working toward the same goal? If not, and that sounds like something your organization could benefit from, let us know.