In the first article in this series on purpose, we looked at the nature of purpose and espoused the view that purpose has two facets: functional (where it describes what the company must get done); and intentional (where it articulates what the company would like to see change in the wider world.) In this article, we look at how purpose and its impacts might be quantified and the benefits that a measurement system might bring.
For all the talk of the need for talent and the huge dependence on human capability to compete effectively, HR for the most part is still a dumb industry. It’s dumb not because the people responsible for it are dumb but because the processes of control and conform that worked so neatly in the factory age are still in effect. And they are dumb. They’re dumb because they continue to treat people in ways that are out of sync with what is really required.
Marketers are busy talking up the value of telling the stories of their brands. But why aren’t more organisations structuring their own strategies and issues as stories, and what role are marketers taking in making that happen?
A culture with purpose doesn’t set and forget all the hard work that got it there in the first place. On the contrary, it continues to build and report on what it has established. Without that impetus, purpose quickly gives way to task and the commitment to deliver change is overtaken by the motivation to just make budget. If you need to convince others in your organisation that the momentum and energy required to stay the course is indeed worth it, consider these observations from Deloitte’s Culture of Purpose 2013 Report.
At some point, a culture that is serious about what it intends must put those intentions in writing. That’s about a lot more than documentation. Declaring what you come to work for collectively amounts to a commitment. So many companies squander this opportunity in my view. They market what is happening rather than explaining it. They expand on what it means for the company rather than how it benefits the individual. They paint a process and not a picture.
Far from increasing the daylight between itself and another brand, companies that are fixated on achieving an objective can do themselves, their brands and their reputations serious harm. Pushing the wrong boundaries can push a brand over the edge. This is of course anathema to conventional management theory which has preached for some time that pushing people to excel brings out the best in them.
It continues to fascinate me how little some businesses still seem to understand their human factors as opposed to their people model. They know how their workforce is organised. They understand where they’re allocated. They know what they cost. They have processes for everything they do. But they still seem to lack the anthropological understanding of how they actually can and need to get on and interact.
There’s a temptation to believe that the sheer logic of a good decision will sway the crowd; that if you make a good case and present it in an inspiring way, you’ve done everything you need to for that idea to gain instant uptake in an organisational culture. I’ve yet to see that happen successfully. I’ve seen it tried often – “now take that idea and apply it to what you do” – but never in ways that live up to expectations.
If brands face a continual need to renew their value externally in order to sustain their margins, are cultures also subject to similar downward pressures? Is it in the nature of cultures, I wonder, to commoditise in terms of their meaning internally unless they are actively prevented from doing so?
Having clearly outlined why change is needed and the opportunity that change could generate, too many culture change programmes then leave people to make the changes themselves without very much more explanation. So often, staff are handed new values and a new purpose, there’s some motivational meetings and perhaps a video and gift, and then the business just expects them to get on with it. The thinking seems to be that this gives people personal empowerment; that it brings the change alive for them.