The Purpose Blade

The first blade of the Windmill Theory within Powered By Change (PBC) is the purpose blade. The reason it is the first blade is that the purpose of an organisation needs to permeate throughout its entirety and to essentially become its DNA in order for it to operate effectively. Arguably the term purpose has become overused and oftentimes misunderstood. Quite often purpose is portrayed as a tagline that is used in a PR campaign. More recently companies have been defining purpose in terms of a ‘social purpose’. Whilst noble and admirable, the existence of a social purpose doesn’t really translate into an organisation being able to clearly identify what it actually does. Rather this type of purpose is more a benefit provided of the company being in business and giving back in some way. The meaning of purpose within PBC is quite different to any of these connotations. It is actually something that runs inherently throughout the organisation to its core and is clearly understood by everyone. Purpose is really identifying the business that you are actually in rather than the business you think you are in. That is, what your main thing is that epitomises the value the company provides. 

The manifestation of purpose is an ability to pivot the business in multiple directions and create numerous income streams. This is important, especially in times of uncertainty and change as it provides an ability to hedge bets on success to achieve longevity. Have you ever looked at how some companies innovate in the most bizarre ways that kind of make sense and in which they are successful? Businesses that are able to do this are generally in a fairly established place of purpose. They not only understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and how but also why it matters and to whom it matters.

One such example of a company that has truly elevated its purpose is Harley Davidson. Aside from selling motorbikes, Harley Davidson have spawned a range of other product offerings from motorbike gear, retail outlets to cafe and hotel chains. Ostensibly, some of these things at first glance appear unrelated or unaligned to selling motorbikes. However, Harley Davidson isn’t really in the business of selling motorbikes, they are actually in the business of enabling the experience of freedom. When looking at what they do and how they do it from the perspective of the business they are really in, their ability to pivot and innovate to explore new opportunities such as this that they can execute and be successful in makes sense. Their willingness to elevate and integrate their purpose has given them an ability to create multiple income streams and hedge their bets for success. This is incredibly important in a time of turbulence and change as it means their opportunity to succeed is enhanced. This is something that any business can do if they are willing to.

Within the Purpose blade, there are three sub-blades which are complementary and equally important. These are:

  1. Elevation – understanding what business you are really in
  2. Specification – identifying how you can execute on your elevated purpose
  3. Integration – ensuring the purpose is fully understood and embedded within the entire organisation and that there is alignment to this purpose

For the Purpose blade to be truly effective all three sub-blades need to be considered. Having an elevated and specified purpose enables companies to pivot in times of uncertainty and to utilise the winds of change by looking at other innovative ways in which the company can innovate to survive. This is something that would be done regularly and in combination with the other blades of the Windmill Theory which is what enables such elevated companies to hedge their bets. It is important to note that simply having an elevated and specified purpose is not enough. Purpose also needs to be integrated throughout a company. It is this integration of purpose that creates alignment. Additionally, this is not a one time thing. It needs to be repeated and practiced. This enables a company to continue elevating, adapting and changing. 

The ramifications of failing to do this can be severe as businesses are left more vulnerable to the forces of disruption and disintermediation. Resulting in detrimental impacts to the bottom-line. Without a clearly elevated, specified and integrated purpose there will be a state of confusion. Meaning a lack of understanding of what the company is doing and why which directly affects productivity. If employees are confused about purpose or are not aligned to the purpose this leads to a reduced productivity and disengagement. Ultimately the impact is lost revenue. A clearly defined and resonant purpose is also important for attracting top talent as talented people want to work for companies whose purpose and value aligns with their own which creates a sense of engagement. Engaged and talented team members are more productive and help with customer retention and higher revenue. Failing to elevate, specify and integrate purpose is essentially leaving money on the table and increasing vulnerability to competitors. 

Following from this, if the company’s purpose is unclear and there is confusion how can the company create resonant and relevant products? The short answer is it isn’t really possible. When the products or services don’t align to the company’s purpose the situation will be such that there is little to no product-market fit and likewise little internal suitability. Also the ability of the company will be impaired in relation to being able to innovate and new and exciting ways as it is not clear what the company exists to do. If the products being offered don’t resonate, don’t make sense or don’t solve problems the outcome is a lack or revenue. Finally, if the purpose is unclear then it’s relevant processes can’t be created, implemented and executed which results in inefficiency and further negatively compounds issues of productivity.

Ultimately all of this impacts the bottom line and leaves potential revenue and unexplored opportunities on the table for competitors. When the Purpose blade isn’t properly effective the company is not setting itself up for perpetual success, especially in turbulent times such as now where the pressure of change to transform and innovate is immense. Having an elevated purpose is what enables companies to create resonant products that solve messes, ensuring there are the right team members in place who are aligned to the purpose and have the desire to create innovative products and strategies and to implement the processes needed to execute them. Purpose is vitally important as it permeates all the other Windmill Theory blades. When done effectively the end result is improved business performance, an ability to innovate and adapt to change to ensure ongoing success.

The enemy of a great company is a good company that is sailing along fairly well with a complacent attitude that things will continue as they have been. There is a reluctance to move out of that comfort zone. This is especially true when times are good. However, if you have failed to continually elevate your purpose and meaningfully integrate it whilst simply staying inside your comfort zone, there is the very real risk of being disintermediated and disrupted when times change. This is exactly what is happening globally now. The good news is that you do have the opportunity to start doing this now. If you choose to. Remember, the difference between success and failure is how we respond to change. There are gale force winds of change blowing right now and there has never been a better time to embrace them.

The hardest part is probably knowing how to do this. The PBC solution toolkit can help and has been used by many successful companies globally in the quest to elevate their purpose and use change as an enabler to accelerate their success.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Purpose is about understanding the business you are actually in, how you do what you do, why it matters and to whom. 
  2. The willingness to elevate, specify and integrate purpose is directly proportional to your ability to innovate and transform using change as an enabler.
  3. Failure to clearly define and understand purpose creates confusion which seeps through all other aspects of the company resulting in unproductiveness and inefficiency. This has a detrimental impact on revenue and profitability as well as leaving the company more exposed to competitors, disruption and disintermediation.  
  4. The only time it’s too late to start doing this is when the company no longer exists.

For more information on how the PBC solution can help your business feel free to get in touch, we would love to talk with you, at:

info@poweredbychange.com

me@jonathanmacdonald.com

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