Toolkit for Dynamic Strategy – Vision and purpose – when you explain your why, what is your energy telling you?

Jan 2018 | John Marik |

What would you say if I asked you to tell me why your organisation exists, or its purpose?  Ok you have a minute, go…

…tick, tock, tick, tock, tick…

  • well we are here to make money, it’s all about sales and profit
  • we exist to give back to the world
  • we are here for the customer first and foremost
  • we exist to give jobs to people in the local community

I love asking this question and I am always surprised how the question baffles, or inspires,  all levels of an organisation.  If the answers are glaringly different through-out your organisation you may want to take note as this sets the direction, or lack thereof. All the above are valid answers that you tried to rationally think about, but what did you feel as you were talking or thinking; was their passion, energy, excitement?

Before you start any strategic planning process, or even before you start a business for that matter, how you talk about your organisation is just as important as what you say about it.  And by how, I mean how you tap into the emotional and connect with what you are saying. 

Understanding your why is not about words or phrases between senior leadership, it is about energy; what gets people motivated, excited, passionate and aligned to your purpose so they want to show up to work each day?

So before we get into purpose and energy.  Let’s recap where we have come from and what the Toolkit for Dynamic Strategy (click-through to part 1 for an overview of the idea behind my toolkit for the extended version or get the brief explanation below) encompasses.  And I note, I’m not trying to sell you any product or service, I’m happily employed.  I want to express an idea and have someone connect and maybe expand on that idea.

There is no ideal strategic framework.  What is required is a toolkit that allows you to bring different tools in and out of your strategic process that allows you to ask the right questions at different points of the business life-cycle.  The toolkit encompasses strategy planning, development and execution that allows strategy to become fluid and a part of your everyday.

The foundations to develop sound strategy to then bring that strategy to life includes the following fundamental elements that make up the toolkit for dynamic strategy:

  • VISION – find your why, what you stand for and where you are heading?
  • CONNECTION – pattern recognition in the internal and external environment.
  • CHOICE – what are you going to do?  This is your actual strategy.
  • ALIGNMENT – executing your strategy and making it operational.  The how.

All of the above four elements are inter-related and can inform the other and why strategic planning cannot be a set and forget “exercise”.

Ok back to purpose and energy; this is the starting point for your organisation.  You cannot and should not proceed any further in the strategic planning process unless you are clear about your why.

I hear people use the catch cry “fake it until you make it” or “fake it until you are it”.  I don’t subscribe to these terms and while I understand the sentiment, the word fake implies you are not genuine and therefore that word does not come into my vocabulary.  Understanding why an organisation exists cannot be faked, back engineered in a way that does not actually agree with what the business is, does and the way it operates.  Well you can do it that way, however your business will lack soul and will not be set-up for long-term success.

Let me elaborate on two key issues most companies have in understanding their why.  Usually I see and hear two extremes, on the one hand I hear a company is all about sales and profits.  I get it and it is absolutely mandatory for a business to be commercially viable, but it is an outcome of what you provide, it is not why you provide it.  Let me explain this with an example.  I started this website not because I want to make money out of it, sure I want to monetise it in some way, but at the core is a need to write, express myself and share my unique viewpoints and ideas with like-minded people.

My purpose is to share ideas to lead, connect and inspire like-minded people.

If I did not enjoy the topics I write about it would be a chore and over time I could not keep it up – whether I was making a million dollars a day or not.

On the other end of the spectrum I see companies that have been in business for many years back engineer their purpose whereby they say they are in it for the good of the world.  This is fine unless what is said and done in the day-to-day is misaligned with the intended purpose.  People are emotional beings and while you can fool people with words, you cannot over time fool them with emotions.

Let’s look at some examples of what some well-known companies put as their why, their core reason for being:

  • 3M: To solve unsolved problems innovatively
  • Walt Disney: To make people happy
  • Nike: To experience the emotion of competition, winning and crushing competitors
  • Wal-Mart: To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people

When you talk about an idea, a business, an organisation you are involved with, what do you think the other person FEELS?  The above examples of reasons for being are motivational and inspire passion. They do more than that though, they help set a compass as to “how things are done around here” e.g. 3M define innovation as a key construct and ensure people and teams are given the tools, space and mindset to help them innovate.

How does your organisation find its purpose?

“Truly great companies understand the difference between what should never change and what should be open for change” Building Your Company’s Vision by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras

Your organisations purpose is the very reason for your existence and it does not change over time.  With this in mind the founders of a company or organisation need to be the first port of call as to why they set up the company.  Have them articulate the why and record it, you will know when you strike gold – you will hear it and feel it via the energy and passion in their voice, their actions, their behaviours.  If the founders are no longer with us look at media transcrpits and internal memos to staff.  It is also worth facilitating sessions and engaging widely with customers and employees as to why they keep supporting the organisation, or why not.

If you simply are in business to make money, over time you will lose the spark, passion, energy and your customers and employees will feel it.  You cannot fake energy and passion.

Therefore to recap; the birth of an organisation, the review of an organisation, the start of a strategic planning process needs to go back to the emotional elements of why the company exists and why anyone should care that it does exist.  An inspirational purpose will help you align to the right course and find the right people that want to be involved in the journey as it aligns with who they are.

That’s are great segway into part 3 focusing on values…till next time.

#ToolKitforDynamicStrategy #purpose #MissionStatement #StrategicPlanning #Strategy

3 thoughts on “Toolkit for Dynamic Strategy – Vision and purpose – when you explain your why, what is your energy telling you?

  1. Very good, valid reasons for the existence of a particular company. But there are also other reasons for the existence of them: it is the niche or need for certain goods in the community, the scarcity or abundance of products can enable the existence of businesses. Also, the need for the innovation and development of products and ideas.
    Also, companies are established based on the intelligence and genius of some people who develops an idea or product (which at first sight seems to be silly of unwanted) and push the marketing of the product to a degree that it becomes a necessary part of people’s life. For examples, this is exactly the case with so called “vitamin industry”. We all know that food contains necessary vitamins and minerals we need for proper development. Some genius in the 30ties in the 20th century used the by-products of the fast-developing industrial process for the manufacturing of so called vitamins and minerals. Instead of getting rid of them, they are now marketed as a necessary “supplement” of our nutrition. No one is doing any research about the fact that artificially produced vitamins are not needed at all, or that these so called vitamins have nothing to do with the real vitamins and minerals in our food. The brutal marketing has made many people believe that we need to “supplement” our nutrition with these artificial products. Nowadays, it is a billion dollar industry, even though sales are dropping in developed countries, they are growing in China, India and Africa.

    There would be other examples of businesses and trends that exist purely for monetary profits and may not be necessary for the good of the community (see fashion industry, make-up industry, cosmetic surgery, cosmetic enhancement industry). These companies exist because they “monetise” people’s vanity, ageism, exploitation of the pressure put on women’s or men’s appearance etc. There is a lot of predatory marketing and pressure put on consumers.

    Also, there are businesses necessary for the wellbeing of society: hospitals, utilities, supermarkets, schools, etc.


    1. I like the word exploitation as that is the reason why “commodity” businesses come and go and can be easily copied. Price mark-downs, two-for-one offers etc. are forms of exploitation. You know you have a robust business where price is no longer an underlying reason for a customer buying your product and/or service.

      Some great point though.


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