I once had a senior manager ask why their business should bother creating a Company purpose and values. He had worked for multiple organizations, and some very large corporations which had their values plastered everywhere, but from his perspective these didn’t make any difference to the organization. They just became words and so he viewed these activities as just another thing that large corporations waste time and effort on.
This can definitely happen, but we were able to have a conversation around how your purpose and values need to be considered as the lens through which all of your decisions are made.
When embedded into a business, no matter the size, being clear on our business purpose and values can enable faster and better decision making.
Purpose as the Why
One of the resources we love to use is Find Your Why which is the practical handbook of how to determine your personal, team, and business purpose. Simon Sinek talks about the Golden Circle, which is a great model about how there are three levels to everything on the planet:
- what we do ,
- how we do it, and
- why we do it.
Once we get those aligned, that provides the filter through which we make decisions, it provides a foundation for innovation, and for building trust.
For example, Starbucks states their purpose is to inspire and nurture the human spirit. That is their “why”. Their “what” is they make coffee, but their purpose is not about coffee.
Their purpose is to inspire and nurture the human spirit. That is why I assume that Starbucks try to make their cafes like a neighborhood drop-in point. They have big couches that you can sit down in and you can spend time relaxing, working, reading books or listening to music. It’s not about just walking in and getting a cup of coffee, it’s about having that neighborhood. A place to drop in and inspire and nurture your spirit.
Another example is Netflix. Their purpose is to entertain the world.
Given that as their purpose, would it make sense for Netflix at some point to expand their services to gaming? Quite possibly as that fits their purpose to entertain. But would they get into creating clothing? That wouldn’t fit with their purpose so unlikely!
The purpose of TED is to spread ideas. Whether that’s through events, podcasts, blogs, it is all spreading ideas. So, would TED expand into gaming? Quite possibly if the games fit with their purpose of spreading ideas.
So that’s how you can hopefully start to see how having a clear purpose can inform decision making, particularly at a strategic level.
This is especially important for businesses that might have three or four brands under one group. It can become quite difficult to make strategic decisions because what might work for one part of that group doesn’t work for the other. That’s where that overarching purpose can be so important.
To go back to the original business that I was referring to in this article, there were two distinct brands within that business. We were able to come up with a purpose that crossed over both, which helped everyone to feel like they’re going in the one direction, and believe in being one group with one goal.
Values as the How
I like to think of values as the how.
Every business knows WHAT they do, that’s pretty easy.
I now know my WHY, my purpose.
The next step is HOW am I doing the WHAT to achieve the WHY.
That’s where the values really come into play, and I would encourage you to not just have values stated as words, but also the behavioral standard behind it.
A great way to determine your values is to grab a big list of words. For example, Brene Brown’s website has a great list, and then use those words to get ideas.
Go through with your teams the words that resonate and talk about examples of behaviours that would describe those words in your workplace. It doesn’t need to be demonstrated all the time, it could be slightly aspirational, but we all agree this is HOW we want to do things in our business.
Now when faced with a difficult decision, or innovative ideas for new products or services, you have your business lenses in your purpose and values. These are consistent across everyone in your business which gives everyone clear signposts. That then is how you are able to make faster and better decisions.