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The Power of Purpose and the Balance of Goal, Value & Leadership

Intro: Two colleagues of mine started working on a model for the “power of purpose”. Purpose is one of the key subjects at the moment when it comes to change, leadership & management. One of the most famous talkers about the power of purpose might be Simon Sinek. You can see his TED Talk here. My colleagues point out the need that goal, value and leadership need to be in harmony in order to create an effective sense of purpose. I’ve fallen in love with the idea straight away so I capture my take & interpretation on the early stage of their model on my blog, you can find their publication here on LinkedIn.

The power of purpose.

“Why” is what you need to answer if you want to determine the purpose for “how” you are intending to do “what. From a leadership angle the “reason-why” might be the most important answer to give anyway. In particular in times of change, when the awareness for a need for change is charged with the urgency created by markets, competition or overall eco system. You need to move and you need to move fairly fast.

Commitment, dedication and intrinsic motivation is what leaders and managers should seek in their organisation. They are strong pillars for a stable environment in which trust can grow and distribution of accountability and responsibility is possible.

Goal. Value. Leadership.

In their model, Christian Heraty and Kevin Hansen, imply that a harmony or balance of the three core elements

  • Goal (What are we trying to achieve?)
  • Value (What benefit will derive from achieving the goal for whom?)
  • Leadership (How is a common understanding for the journey ahead created and sustained?)

are essential for an effective purpose. This is essential if you perceive “purpose” as a key resource to success and you required the maximum effect and impact of it on organisation and culture.

Read their description on the model here. The following text is my personal perspective on their angle:

Where we fall short in so many instances…

1. Setting Goals

If communication is only successful when sender and recipient are aligned, I believe the majority of goals – or better the way they are delivered to the affected audience – are far from “clear”. Yes, our goal can be to “increase net sales by 20 million”, but as long as your not the highest person in charge of sales, it’s not really “concrete”. Set aside the fact that motivation is definitely not driven by such a statement.

There are various ways of setting goals. SMART is probably one of my favourites:
<S> specific
<M> measurable
<A> achievable
<R> realistic
<T> timely

In our day to day work at Infocentric we for example use a structure called “PO3” to frame meetings, initiatives or projects.
<P> purpose (why)
<O> objective (what)
<O> outcome (result)
<O> output (deliverables)

I believe there are even more way of driving a common understanding and alignment across teams, departments of even companies. They all have one things in common: it requires time, thinking and recipient orientated communications to get it right…all three not necessarily the strongest pieces in goal setting processes.

2. Make value understood

One of my key learnings in my time at Tieto was “Industrial Buying Center Management (IBCM)”. As part of a development program obviously focussed on empowering us to drive business. Over time and in particular in my work as a consultant one concept of IBCM has proven to be extremely valuable: the resonating value proposition (read the original Harvard Business Review article here).

Essentially the concept is simple: the more a value proposition resonates with the actual recipient, the more powerful it is.

In practice it means that the value for e.g. digital transformation is substantially different for HR, CFO department, Sales or Engineering. If you want to make sure that your initiative or change program get broad acceptance you need to cater to all relevant (or affected) parties.

In the context of purpose it is essential to convey “value” in a way that people can understand it and thereby buy into it as a core element. And just for the sake of mentioning it: people ain’t stupid. Whatever companies do, has one some level a commercial or otherwise business orientated sense – even for an NGO. I can only urge leaders and managers to not beat around the bush and show how “this is your value – and this is how it connects to the value for our company” transparently.

3. Leading purpose

For this one I have a very, very tangible example. The past 8 years I’ve spent in the field of Advanced Intranets and the Digital Workplace. I had to learn the hard way that the C-Suite “we need to function as one tree hugging and super productive family” efficiency story sounds different when the board room doors are closed. Suddenly efficiency isn’t much of a topic anymore. If work gets done in 8 or 11 hours is…well…a working level issue. And unfortunately past experience proves that they are right. People get stuff done…no matter what obstacles you throw in their way. That’s what makes us human.

In the board room “effectiveness” is like magic: grown in additional regions without growing staff at the same ratio. Sell more without more sales staff. Ensure that the resource applied to achieve a goal has it’s maximum effect.

Why I am telling this story? Because if there is a dissonance between message and reality, then conveying purpose will be almost impossible. It disables operations to create tangible and resonating value propositions to the board room. Because, in the example above, they think efficiency (= value) to reach growth (= the goal). For the recipients, however, effectiveness is the real budget magnet. This immediately puts value & goal out of synch and a potential purpose is dead in the water.

Together it all makes sense…

If you think about it carefully: it actually makes sense. You cannot make purpose up. You have to mean it. In order to be able to mean it Goal, Value and the means of implementing both through authentic and coherent Leadership have to be in place. Otherwise “purpose” is another way of “marketing” whatever message you want to bring across.

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Expectations Mgmt: YOU! are in charge; the #DigitalWorkplace will only provide means 2b better @ it; #SelfLeadership #socbiz #enterprise20

Summary: The expectation that a new digital workplace will simply remove all known obstacles and automate all cumbersome things of an information worker is wrong. In too many instances I have stumbled across users and managers that said “But then I still have to look for stuff – I just want it there right in front of me”. Yes, indeed. You stay in charge. All a digital workplace can provide is the means to make life and work easier. Working itself will stay with the people. I believe we have to manage expectations accordingly.

Inspired by the book “Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager” (Ken Blanchard, Susan Fowler, Laurence Hawkings, 2005) I’ve decided to elaborate a little bit on one of the most important pieces of change in the context of the future of information and knowledge work: Expectations Management. I got the inspiration from the general approach of the book to put people in the right place and put responsibility and initiative in their hands. For me this is the first step to a successful transformation of the digital workplace.

YOU! are in charge of driving automation of information retrieval

“Enterprise Search” is still in the top list of corporate business IT initiatives. “We just can’t find our stuff” is probably the key complaint when it comes to information, data or knowledge management. Rest assured: a blue, yellow or whatever color search application server won’t make much of a difference.

Rubbish in (by YOU!), rubbish out (for the poor others).

I don’t know how many times I have commented the need for “Enterprise Search” with that. As long as users don’t classify information others won’t be able to find it in a context beyond semantic. The content of a document however must not necessarily be the best indicator where or when to use it. To make it really valuable the conversation around that piece of data or additional information on background, usage or ownership is essential in most cases.

Well…if YOU! don’t want to tag the document, then at least tag yourself, the workspace you work in and throw in a short comment on why you have created, modified or just stored that piece of work. So that just by knowing enough about you and your context the document can be put in the right place – meaning: in front of the right people and next to information and data that goes well with it.

YOU! are in charge of capturing essentials and value of the new “corporate conversation”

“There is no information overload, just filter failure” (Clay Shirkey) is one side of the coin. The flip side is: YOU! have to use the filters. Like in: using them yourself by thinking things like…

  • what am I looking for? specifically or “more or less”…
  • is what I am seeing important to me or not?
  • what would be the easiest channel/source to what I am looking for?

Yes, one of the value propositions is that relevant information will be delivered to the door step of employees. Nevertheless: digital data (stupid zeros and ones) cannot look inside your brain to figure out “right now or is tomorrow maybe better?”. So a digital workplace will strengthen all efforts to filter out noise and “stuff” and reduce the overload to the (potentially) most relevant pieces that could add value to one’s day.

To distinguish important from urgent and core essential process stuff from “nice to know maybe later” material is down to YOU!.

YOU! need leadership in the D2 stage? Then go and ask for it!

“Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager” is referring to four stages of motivation/competence that employees can be in. Corresponding to those stages the authors suggest leadership/management styles to help employees to move to the next stage. Here’s the basic illustration from that book:

Situational Leadership

If you ask me the leadership style that is required in today’s transformation process from a pure top down and hierarchical to a more knowledge and network driven organization is S2. Existing employees (in particular the ones that have been part of the workforce for a while already) might feel challenged with the new level of responsibility they suddenly carry. If one comes out of a task and process managed work culture the move into an objective managed environment requires a lot of help.

We may acknowledge that and preach it to the management. And managers have to transform their role from watching each single step to making sure that the orchestra plays well together and is delivering the symphony spot on.

Nevertheless employees have to expose their challenge with the new ways of working and seek support by either their managers (now coaches) or other employees. Because the book also states that being a leader does not necessarily have to be connected with organizational power. Leaders can be the ones that are ahead of others and that are capable to support others to walk the same path.

If YOU! don’t know what to do, go ask for help!

Oh…and if there is nobody around willing to help you, you might want to think about the question if your trying to deliver your value in the right place… (like in: find a better job!).

My apology to YOU!

I apologize to anyone who thinks I am just ranting here. All I am trying to say here is

  • Employees have to understand that they have to start their brains
  • Employees have to either show interest or simply find motivation for  that somewhere else
  • Employees have to take action and actively use the new opportunities to either contribute or utilize the contributions of others
  • Managers have to be role models – today more than ever. If a manager is convinced that there aren’t enough minutes in the day to make information findable, why would anyone feel obliged to add that little piece of work to the day?

Expect the following: The digital workplace is there to support. It is there to grow, become more useful and helpful with every single contribution. It is there to become more and more relevant and knowledgeable about its users and their “intentions”. It’s like a kid. It has to be born, grow and then become a genius.

Don’t expect the digital workplace to be “rolled out” and solve all challenges we have been confronted with over the past years through  its pure existence.

Thanks for listening…

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my interview on leadership 2.0 on the nofear-community.com / #NoFearBook

I have to admit that I am kind of proud to be part of this project…

http://nofear-community.com/blog/2011/videoexecutive-interview-philipp-rosenthal-future-office-evangelist-tieto-and-contributing-author/

(I suppose if I say network one more time someone will slap me in the face hahaha)

Check the new site as well: http://www.nofear-community.com
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#leadership for the upcoming generation of employees #nofearbook

The No Fear Community (and will be a book) is supposed to support experience exchange amongst business professionals, managers and executives with regards to leadership practice and the change happening therein due to the shift in a lot of the employee's mindset. The question 'what's in for me' seems to become more and more eminent. It's similar to the dynamics in the online world: if you cannot offer real value and intuitive user experience user will abandon your offering. So leaders will – in a mid and long term – have to understand that followers won't be only defined by reporting lines anymore but by passion and belief in the shared vision, mission and goals. That of course doesn't mean that formal organizations will be replaced with solely crowd sourced businesses. There will be a new balance between the formal guidelines/structure keeping things in order and the network-oriented operations that will create value and unleash new potential in the field of information and knowledge work. It will be a continuous process not a one off change and it will be a challenge for everyone involved – the ones that seek to lead and the ones that seek to be led authentically. Check out the new website now at http://www.nofear-community.com/pre or at http://www.nofear-community.com as of March 1st.