Oct 12, 2010

Your purpose is not complicated

Microsoft used to have a great purpose, “to put a computer on every desk and in every home.” In 1975, people didn’t own personal computers. It took great forethought and energy to chase such a big hairy audacious deal.

Today, Microsoft’s mission reads, “At Microsoft, our mission and values are to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.”

Where’s the purpose? Where’s the energy? What is Microsoft actually fighting for?

The same can be said about RIM. The Blackberry was built on the idea of putting your personal assistant in your pocket: email, calendar, notes and to-do lists. Pretty clear cut. I get it, I want it.

Here is how RIM describes itself today, “RIM is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information, including email, phone, short messaging service, Internet and intranet-based applications.”

Based on their current vision are you surprised Apple and Google are taking so much of RIM’s market share?

Make your purpose simple

Too often mission and vision statements get too complicated. Simple doesn’t seem sexy or impressive, but it’s impactful. A clear, simple purpose provides your team a measuring stick for making decisions: will this decision get us closer to our purpose, yes or no? Simple Clarity drives action.

Southwest Airlines was founded on the idea of making air travel as affordable as taking the bus. This was a tangible, measurable purpose. When an employee brought a new idea or suggestion to Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines’ CEO, he would ask, “How will that make flying more affordable for our customers?” If the suggestion didn’t fulfill the purpose, it was discarded.

The simplicity of Southwest’s purpose saved them oodles of time. They weren’t chasing innovations and ideas in air travel. They were chasing a clear purpose, and innovating to fulfill that goal. Decisions could be made, because they knew what was important and what was out of scope.

Your purpose is more than money

People don’t get up in the morning and think, “Man, I can’t wait to get to work so I can help my CEO buy another Ferrari.” They go to work to contribute value. They go to work to contribute to something larger than themselves. Working for a paycheck is the same as working for the weekend; pretty meaningless stuff.

Big hairy audacious goals based on money are hollow. Goals like, “to be a billion dollar company” or “to grow sales by $25 million in 5 years” are not actionable. They may sound good at a strategic planning retreat, but what do they mean to your front line staff? How do they translate into action?

RIM seem to have defaulted their purposes to money. What are they fighting for? Why do their employees come to work? Are they just working to catch up with Google and Apple?

Finding your purpose isn’t complicated

You don’t have to look for grandiose ideas or concepts. An effective purpose is simple, straight forward and actionable.

To find yours ask 3 simple questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Who do you serve?
  3. Why do you serve them?

Consolidate these questions, and you’re on your way to developing your organization’s purpose.

Thoughts? What’s your take?

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