We’re Established - and Still Seeking Professional Help.
Timing is always important when you’re considering making an investment in your organization’s purpose.
There is a time and an environment that will allow you to benefit the most from investing in developing a purpose, both as an early stage organization and as an established one.
For businesses that have been in operation for a while, possibly even for decades, there’s one major difference - your business has history.
It doesn’t sound like much, but humans are creatures of habit. And old habits die hard. Sometimes, that’s of great value. Sometimes, our habits provide challenges when introducing something new.
When asking yourself if now is the right time to refine an existing purpose, or create one that you’ve never articulated before, you will have to talk to a number of people and align (or realign) more pieces to maximize its value than an early stage company.
Additionally, you’ll need to talk with customers and dig into your organization's history to make sure you’re being authentic and, most importantly, meaningful. The company was founded for a reason, and you’ll need to understand what it was.
You may have the necessary capital, but the resource of time and effort cannot be understated. It is just as important to time your investment as an established company to achieve the best results.
Here are some indicators to help you determine if it’s the right time to invest in purpose as an established entity:
1. You’re no longer sure why you’re coming to work or why your work matters.
This is something that management is likely going to need to find out from the internal team, as well as from the C-suite.
It is important to find out how satisfied people are with their work, how proud they are to work for your organization, and in turn, how motivated they are to strive for excellence.
Additional, more specific questions may include how much ownership they feel over their work, how willing they are to pursue education that will advance their work, and if they feel their individual efforts are advancing the organization overall.
If you're finding that your team is feeling lost or disengaged, establishing or refining a purpose can change that situation, and even motivate people to take part in the process.
2. You’ve determined that despite having values, you aren’t really aligned around them.
If you’re finding that you’ve stuck your core values on your website - and not done much else with them - it’s likely time to invest in an initiative to craft a viable purpose and integrate it into your organization.
To determine this, you will need to take an honest look at your entire organization in a tiered fashion: the executive level, the management level, and the support team level. Each level needs to assess if their decisions are coming from a place of purpose or from a place focused only on short-term gain. Perhaps your company's efforts at different levels appear arbitrary when looked at together, which would imply that the three tiers are not working toward the same goal.
You then need to determine if the misalignment is because you have a purpose and your team just doesn’t know about it, or if everyone is operating in silos looking at numbers without any sense of how their work relates to the rest of your company.
3. Your public is questioning your ethics.
While perhaps not the desired reason for starting an initiative, it is generally an expeditious one.
Getting put into a position that requires you to reevaluate your values in order to re-center your organization presents a prime opportunity to dig in and craft a meaningful purpose to redirect the ship and root out actions that don’t provide value.
Be careful however to remain authentic and to align yourself around the purpose you articulate, otherwise your community could see you as a fraud which won't help your PR situation. In other words, be proactive during this step of the process rather than reactive.
4. You can set it as a priority.
Just like with early stage companies, investing in developing or refining a purpose will take time – it’s part of the investment. If you can't do that right now, then it isn't the right time.
If you can, make sure you have the forethought to factor the initiative into your planning ahead of time, rather than putting it on top of other initiatives. You're making an investment so make the most of it.
Once you've created your purpose, you will still need to invest in embedding it in your organization. That may involve outside support, or it may not, but it does need to happen effectively for you to reap the full benefits of the purpose you just created.
Start by changing existing habits within your organization as well as creating new ones that better align around the purpose. Your actions will speak the loudest, so it’s important that you have your house in order.
Once you feel that you’re better aligned and properly focused, then you can move to announcing your changes to the outside world. That may be by fully rebranding or just by making strategic adjustments.
Timing your investment in purpose is just as critical for established companies as it is for startups. It will take your whole team to determine that the time is right, but when the investment is made well, your whole company reaps the benefits.
by Katie Burkhart
Katie is analytical cross-connector and purpose-driven strategist simplifying big ideas into actions. She is also the Founder and CEO of Illumyne.