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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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Google Web Search is not Enterprise Search…

Summary: If you are in charge of Digital Workplace or intranet projects I bet a lot(!) on the fact that you continuously get the “requirement” to simply launch something like Google. Then the internal search experience will be so much better. This is a short but maybe a helpful one…

If it’s getting serious…the big “G” goes Taxonomy and Refinement, too

Yes, managing taxonomies is an effort. Yes, assigning taxonomy to enterprise information makes is less easy to just “dump” stuff onto a server. No, the application of meta data to information objects cannot be fully automated (yet).

There is a substantial difference between “finding something that somewhat meets my need” (aka Web Search) or “find something specific that is required to enable me to achieve a certain (unmovable) objective” (aka Enterprise Search). That’s why 2’300’000 results and a few “media type” categories won’t hep. You need refiners/filters, which are populated from a taxonomy. So if you’re trying to find a specific “thing” Google changes your search/refine experience as well.

Here’s a little example for the search query “laptop” in Google Web and Shopping search.

SIX15-02 Google Web vs Shopping

You can’t just “make up” stuff in terms of meta data that you apply to products that you want to register with Google Shopping. Similar to the categorisation and description that you have to apply to offers on eBay…if you’ve ever done that you know what I am talking about.

Web Search vs. Enterprise Search: it’s about controlling the “experience of finding stuff”

I’m simply sharing a slide that I’ve created as part of my work at Infocentric. Less for advertising but more of pragmatism reasons.

The Google Misinterpretation

Since it’s little hard to read here’s a link to a JPG.

If you need a few more reasons why taxonomies are essential to successful and user friendly (not publisher super low effort) experience:

  • freedom to combine/aggregate information objects dynamically
  • disconnect information from organisational/corporate structure
  • ability to deliver information to the relevant user profiles (matching information object and profile meta data)
  • option to associate “future” information objects (not in the system yet) to existing content via metadata
  • ability to “follow” subjects instead of people (like you partly deal with Twitter, when you follow/aggregate a #tag)

Is there proof that it works?

Yes. Simply get in touch with Estée Lauder, New York. The have extracted all their assets from the search index, applied a newly designed taxonomy, moved them back into the system and now: all purple roses! Check out the Twitter minutes for #intrelEU or Social Business Collaboration 2015 where they presented that insanely awesome project!

 

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#enterprise20 = foundation of evolving organizations; breaking with the paradigm of individual #lifelonglearning; #e20 #socialbusiness

Summary: ‘Companies must evolve from being knowledge organizations to developing organizations’ – that’s the quote of an industry representative that tickled my brain while I was moderating a world cafe session last week. I want to go even further: they have to become continuously evolving organizations. ‘Life long learning’ is one of the principles that is put on individuals and that’s kept like some kind of mantra by some. I believe that the real power lies in life long learning and evolving companies – whereof individuals are an essential part. Enterprise 2.0 mechanics can help organizations to lay the foundation for that kind of development.

Combining multiple perspectives.

At the same event an academia representative mentioned their endeavor to connect students from multiple disciplines to project groups. They have to work on a joint challenge as part of their studies. I wish I would have had the opportunity to study under such forward thinking professors because in work life the really game changing ideas, concepts and solutions come from combining multiple perspectives (= multiple disciplines).

In the future it will be less about the knowledge a single individual. It will be more about the intelligence of an individual to combine the own intellectual capabilities with ones of others and global knowledge that becomes more and more accessible.

You don’t have to know everything, You have to know where to look for it.

In particular our fast paced and more and more scattered way of working requires exactly that: the combination of all available (intellectual) assets to solve problems efficiently and effectively. The increasing complexity of challenges and influencing factors is adding to this requirement. I keep quoting G. Wohland’s: Companies tend to ask themselves the wrong question. If you’re facing a situation that hits you by surprise you shouldn’t ask what to do now because you cannot not what to do. I wouldn’t be a surprise if you would be aware of options. You should ask yourself who would be the right person to deal with the subject. (Another reference to Wohland’s thinking can be found here http://goo.gl/cM9f7)

It’s not about proprietary knowledge – and I am thereby not(!) implying that the actually abilities, skills and knowledge of a person aren’t important anymore. It’s about the ability to COMBINE proprietary and complementary skills to a powerful tool for solving challenges.

Awareness of limits and ability to find complementing skills is key.

The awareness – and in particular the acceptance – of (individual) limits however, is a cultural thing. Corporations must create an environment in which individuals are able to expose weakness in certain areas and actively ask for help. Flip side of the coin is: ‘the others’ have to have the flexibility and autonomy to offer and apply their help whenever needed. Again: this should not imply that the sole existence of employees will be built on "sit and wait for a challenge to come by" but the fact that a certain fraction of the personal time can be applied to non-core-role stuff…to helping others (I call this a "we help each other" culture).

The ability is something that can be supported and even empowered by enterprise 2.0 mechanisms and thereby IT. Based on my understanding of the subject the following "user stories" can definitely be "ticked off".

  • Make my skills and expertise visible to others (be findable…distributing content to an undefined group of recipients)
  • Have access to skills and expertise available in the organization (receiving specific, relevant and available content)
  • Refine information and determine the "best fit" (filtering of large information volumes)
  • Relevant profiles should be matched to challenges I am working on (people who have worked on similar challenges have used these experts…)

A social and commercial(!) media inspired workspace can be the enabler for a new way of working…the combination of the real experts to solve challenges quickly, focussed and successfully.

The evolving organization.

The more challenges are solved through the new way of working, the more networks will be established and the more information/data will be put into context. Key improvements would be

  • Re-inventing the wheel will be happen on fewer occasions.
  • Wasting time with something that isn’t core skill will be eliminated. It will be the experts that solve a challenge in shorter time.
  • Working in x-skill and x-expertise projects or "temporary solution swarms" will increase individual skills (training on the job).
  • The corporate DNA (what we know, what we have done) will be documented and made transparent and available.

The role of management in the evolving organization will of course change. Managers will turn into coaches and guides within the network of opportunities and they will have the role to support individuals in balancing own (core) work with the work in temporary swarms (real collaboration).