Appraise Strategy: Purpose

Our reference point today is the ability to appraise strategically. Strategy doesn't live in isolation from a ‘reason for being’. Today we’re talking about purpose, but from a strategic perspective. Strategy almost by definition must be aligned to the organisations purpose. I think there's something innate in us that needs to have a sense of purpose, we need to be part of something that's larger than ourselves, to be fully activated.

Robert Byrne, said, “The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” I like that. There is a sense of, potential being released, when we find a sense of purpose and direction.

When organisations lack clear purpose, a few things happen. A lack of purpose can lower motivation, as people ask themselves, “why am I here?”, “what's the point?”. Clear purpose can be a clarion call, engender alignment, cooperation and be a great motivator.

What we want from our purpose is ultimately a sense of direction, borne out of a reason to exist; our Why as Simon Sinek says. Strategically it allows us to say no to some options because they don't align with our purpose, and yes to others because they do. Part of appraising strategically is looking at markets and opportunities and subjecting them to our core purpose.

If we have a clear purpose, we can use that to box out our strategic thinking. If we don't then our ability to appraise strategically becomes limited.

Sometimes purpose can be articulated as unresolvable or unachievable and yet the direction towards that purpose is what drives productivity. Afdhel Aziz in an excellence piece for Forbes, noted this in the Chobani purpose statement.

“To make better food for more people”

“I love this. Baked into this statement is two conflicting intentions: to make ‘better’ food (food that is higher quality, better ingredients, organically and ethically made) but for the most amount of people (democratizing access so that that good food doesn’t have to come at too high a premium).” He noted that, “Resolving that tension can create real energy and innovation at the heart of the brand.”

Purpose is often synonymous with Vison. The concept has been around a long time; baked into the human history. There’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “Without a vision the people perish.” Maybe there's a price for not having a clear purpose.

Purpose can be short term as well as long term. Yes, you do need an overriding purpose for an organisation if it's to be ultimately successful, but a short-term purpose can serve equally well. When I was Group MD at Gloria Jeans Coffees there was a lack of direction and clarity and the original sense of purpose had been lost. To turn the organisation upside down and restore its sustainable model, we needed to get health back into the average store. And so, our purpose drove our strategy, an organised set of actions focused on franchise partners success. Pressure points appeared in areas where they hadn't been. It ensured that franchise partner health became a priority and that the other parts of the organisation that didn't serve that objective, or came under pressure when we delivered that, needed to be addressed.

Here’s a question for you, do you have a clear sense of purpose? Do your team have a clear sense of purpose? When you look at appraising your strategy is it done within the context of your purpose? If not it's time to retreat to a quiet place or get some help to dig down into your reason for being. Without a sense of purpose, you are quite literally lost, and your strategies may well become reactionary and your effectiveness reduced.

We started by talking about appraising to build clear strategy, but our first port of call is purpose; do we know it? When we do know we can then appraise our opportunities, the operating environment, values, and numerous other organisational characteristics. When we know our purpose everything else becomes subject to that.

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