Why Strategy Isn’t Enough – Have a Purpose

When you’re trying to land a significant change in any organisation, everybody knows that you need to have a clear vision of the business objectives that you want to achieve. That might be to increase your sales by 10%, improve your efficiency or productivity by 20%, do less with more and so on.  Your basic principles of SMART objectives that will measure your success and why that is good for the company.  There might even be a bit of WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for the individual users or stakeholders that might make their life a  bit easier.  But rarely does this drive real engagement in the reasoning behind a company’s transformation strategy, a programme or an individual project.  I’m sure we’ve all been involved in those projects where the idea is the most logical thing in the world, but trying to get it to stick is impossible and you just can’t work out why!

You’ve got to go up even higher than your measurable objectives to ensure that what you are doing has a bigger purpose, that it supports a company vision that people actually believe in, care about and link any change to achieving that goal.  It’s taking something that might seem very transactional and logical, and making it an integral part of delivering that higher purpose. After all, this is often why people work in the organisations that they do in the first place, why they get out of bed in the morning and you’ve got to ignite that passion within them for your project.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

A great explanation of this is Simon Sinek’s “Start with why?” TED talk. Whilst it’s primary theme is about leadership and how to inspire action in others, it absolutely holds true within any change agenda at all levels. Whether you’re a Transformation Director or Junior Project Manager, simply starting with why will help you to get more buy in to your initiative across all of your stakeholders, and vastly improve your chances of success.

Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders inspire Action

The M.O.S.T model (Mission, Objective, Strategy, Tactics) is a pretty common tool for linking the company’s mission down to the tactics of how they are going to achieve it, and it dovetails nicely with Sinek’s model of Why, How and What. And it’s the ‘Mission’ part that is frequently defined in a way that’s not engaging that looses people at the first hurdle.

Simply talking about a mission to double sales or expand into a new market isn’t going to get people out of bed in the morning.

Your Mission is your Why. Your Mission is your company purpose.

A few examples of company missions or purposes are:

  • TED – Spread Ideas
  • Tesla – to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy
  • PayPal – every person has the right to participate fully in the global economy, and that we have an obligation to empower people to exercise this right and improve financial health.

For the people who work in these organisations (and probably the rest of us), if you know that what you’re working on helps move your business closer to fulfilling this purpose, you’ll make damn sure that the project is going to succeed. If the strategy that you’re working on doesn’t help your achieve this, then why are the people who’s buy in will determine its success or failure going to make an effort. In fact, why are you/the organisation even doing it?

A great infographic of the MOST model by ANNE-SOPHIE GUILLOU can be found at
https://www.adviso.ca/en/blog/business/definition-objective-strategy-and-tactic-infographic/ This really helps to define the links from Mission down to the Tactics, and is a great aide memoire when setting out on a new initiative.

So my key takeaways from this are:

  • Ensure that your mission or vision for any change initiative is linked to something that truly engages the stakeholder – Start With Why
  • Use the MOST model to help structure the start up of any new project, programme or change initiative so there’s a clear link from the purpose down to the change required
  • And if your strategy doesn’t link to your purpose, question why you’re doing it in the first place

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