Finding Your Organization’s Purpose

Running a business is hard. Finding your organization's purpose will help you stay sane and focused when the going gets tough.

Finding Your Organization’s Purpose

Paul Walker
September 24, 2020

Purpose is vital for all organizations looking to become something better and to not just make money, but to make an impact. Experts around the world have been saying and showing what they mean by “purpose” for years, each calling it something different.

Simon Sinek, the de facto expert on meaningful purpose, which he calls the “Why”, sometimes describes it as: “The one constant that will guide you toward fulfillment in your work and life.”

Reinventing Organizations, the book which made “Teal” a worldwide concept, describes purpose as: “The deepest creative potential to bring something new to life, to contribute something energetically, valuably to the world.”

And Morning Star, one of the most successful examples of how a company can self-manage, revolves every piece of their organization around its “Mission Statement” (talked about in detail below).

What is “Purpose”?

Whether you call it a why, mission statement, BHAG, or something else, a purpose always comes out with the same intent:

What good do you want your organization to do in the world?

A purpose means you are doing what you do for more of a reason than simply making money. You don’t want to do work just so that you can make money. Rather, you want to make money so that you can accomplish something grand. Making money is important and necessary, but it should be the byproduct, not the goal.

Why is purpose important?

Purpose is not just a new-age, fancy-sounding word that makes you popular. It has real meaning and value behind it. First, it helps you, your hiring, and your branding by separating you from most companies. Most people inherently want to contribute to something larger than themselves — something that makes a real difference and adds value to the world. By making it known you are striving for something greater, employees and customers will join you in the journey because they want to be part of helping you succeed. They resonate with your mission, and that will mean just as much to them as the quality of your product and service.

Furthermore, purpose can provide a lot of direction for all levels of your company. We will look at the aforementioned Morning Star mission statement for guidance. Their mission statement is (in short):

“To produce tomato products and services which consistently achieve the quality and service expectations of our customers in a cost-effective, environmentally responsible manner.”

The company has a mission, and every department within the company has a mission which is clearly a portion of accomplishing that. Their engineers don’t just try to use the newest and coolest equipment — they aim for equipment that lowers cost-effectiveness, improves quality, and is more environmentally responsible. Their client contracts aren’t just focused on making the company money, but achieving the service and quality expectations of their customers. Everything they do in every department, in every interaction, uses the company mission statement as a compass to help them make the right decisions.

Finding your organization’s purpose

There are lots of tips and strategies on how to find your purpose and many different techniques that all work for different people. Below, we’ve provided some of the best resources we know of to help you figure out how to discover your own purpose and put it into words.

How To Find Your Why And Communicate Your Purpose

This is a great article that explains how to think about purpose, how to find yours, and how to write it in a way that provides direction and is clear to outsiders. This is an incredibly valuable article!

Jordan Harbinger Podcast: Simon Sinek | What’s Your “Why” and Where Do You Find It?

Whether you want to listen to the podcast or read the transcript, this is a lot of guidance from the “Why” expert himself.

The Importance of Purpose

Matt Dunsmoor, who trained others on Holacracy at Zappos.com and worked with Simon Sinek, talks about the importance of purpose.

Before You Roll Out a New Purpose at Your Company, Read This

Matt Dunsmoor again with an article about things you strongly want to consider and be aware of before you try making “Purpose” an important part of your organization.

“Evolutionary Purpose” on the Reinventing Organizations Wiki

This wiki is a great resource for all things “Teal”, and this collection of examples is no exception.

How to align around purpose in your organization

Purpose is important, but it can only make a difference if it’s prevalent throughout the organization. Once your purpose is defined, list it somewhere that it can be seen by everyone, every day. Perhaps on the home page of the company’s website, the login screen of your internal software, or painted on a wall everyone needs to walk by each morning. Naturally, just showing the words will do nothing to build alignment, but it serves as one of many means of showing your employees that you’re committed to being purpose-driven.

Next, ensure all other departments, Circles, or teams have purposes that clearly play a role in the greater organization’s purpose, and that the expectations of those areas definitively help achieve that purpose. This ideal state is to have every team moving toward the broader shared goal of the organization as a whole. Do this same thing at every level of your organization (all the way down to the purpose and expectations of individual team members), you’ll have a wonderfully purpose-driven company!

Finding Your Organization’s Purpose

Paul Walker
September 24, 2020

Purpose is vital for all organizations looking to become something better and to not just make money, but to make an impact. Experts around the world have been saying and showing what they mean by “purpose” for years, each calling it something different.

Simon Sinek, the de facto expert on meaningful purpose, which he calls the “Why”, sometimes describes it as: “The one constant that will guide you toward fulfillment in your work and life.”

Reinventing Organizations, the book which made “Teal” a worldwide concept, describes purpose as: “The deepest creative potential to bring something new to life, to contribute something energetically, valuably to the world.”

And Morning Star, one of the most successful examples of how a company can self-manage, revolves every piece of their organization around its “Mission Statement” (talked about in detail below).

What is “Purpose”?

Whether you call it a why, mission statement, BHAG, or something else, a purpose always comes out with the same intent:

What good do you want your organization to do in the world?

A purpose means you are doing what you do for more of a reason than simply making money. You don’t want to do work just so that you can make money. Rather, you want to make money so that you can accomplish something grand. Making money is important and necessary, but it should be the byproduct, not the goal.

Why is purpose important?

Purpose is not just a new-age, fancy-sounding word that makes you popular. It has real meaning and value behind it. First, it helps you, your hiring, and your branding by separating you from most companies. Most people inherently want to contribute to something larger than themselves — something that makes a real difference and adds value to the world. By making it known you are striving for something greater, employees and customers will join you in the journey because they want to be part of helping you succeed. They resonate with your mission, and that will mean just as much to them as the quality of your product and service.

Furthermore, purpose can provide a lot of direction for all levels of your company. We will look at the aforementioned Morning Star mission statement for guidance. Their mission statement is (in short):

“To produce tomato products and services which consistently achieve the quality and service expectations of our customers in a cost-effective, environmentally responsible manner.”

The company has a mission, and every department within the company has a mission which is clearly a portion of accomplishing that. Their engineers don’t just try to use the newest and coolest equipment — they aim for equipment that lowers cost-effectiveness, improves quality, and is more environmentally responsible. Their client contracts aren’t just focused on making the company money, but achieving the service and quality expectations of their customers. Everything they do in every department, in every interaction, uses the company mission statement as a compass to help them make the right decisions.

Finding your organization’s purpose

There are lots of tips and strategies on how to find your purpose and many different techniques that all work for different people. Below, we’ve provided some of the best resources we know of to help you figure out how to discover your own purpose and put it into words.

How To Find Your Why And Communicate Your Purpose

This is a great article that explains how to think about purpose, how to find yours, and how to write it in a way that provides direction and is clear to outsiders. This is an incredibly valuable article!

Jordan Harbinger Podcast: Simon Sinek | What’s Your “Why” and Where Do You Find It?

Whether you want to listen to the podcast or read the transcript, this is a lot of guidance from the “Why” expert himself.

The Importance of Purpose

Matt Dunsmoor, who trained others on Holacracy at Zappos.com and worked with Simon Sinek, talks about the importance of purpose.

Before You Roll Out a New Purpose at Your Company, Read This

Matt Dunsmoor again with an article about things you strongly want to consider and be aware of before you try making “Purpose” an important part of your organization.

“Evolutionary Purpose” on the Reinventing Organizations Wiki

This wiki is a great resource for all things “Teal”, and this collection of examples is no exception.

How to align around purpose in your organization

Purpose is important, but it can only make a difference if it’s prevalent throughout the organization. Once your purpose is defined, list it somewhere that it can be seen by everyone, every day. Perhaps on the home page of the company’s website, the login screen of your internal software, or painted on a wall everyone needs to walk by each morning. Naturally, just showing the words will do nothing to build alignment, but it serves as one of many means of showing your employees that you’re committed to being purpose-driven.

Next, ensure all other departments, Circles, or teams have purposes that clearly play a role in the greater organization’s purpose, and that the expectations of those areas definitively help achieve that purpose. This ideal state is to have every team moving toward the broader shared goal of the organization as a whole. Do this same thing at every level of your organization (all the way down to the purpose and expectations of individual team members), you’ll have a wonderfully purpose-driven company!

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WRITTEN BY

Paul Walker

Self-Management Specialist at Octopy

Paul previously implemented Holacracy and Teal concepts at Zappos and now works at Octopy with the mission of creating a more human-focused future of work