• Keith Wells

We won't get there with "yesterday's logic": Purpose is not enough.

What is this heresy? Are we the anti-vaxxers of the world's panacea? Haven't we seen all the evidence of purpose-driven businesses and their performance?

Of course we have. But there's evidence and there's evidence. Even pre-Covid, we saw findings that suggested Purpose wasn't quite everything its proponents claim. McKinsey found that 42% of employees believed that their organisation's purpose "had no effect" on the business. A couple of professional services firms had also found pragmatic ways to deal with the inconvenience of their professed purpose not squaring with their business performance.

And there has been scant evidence of Purpose guiding businesses through the horrible realities of this pandemic. "We've just got to get through this", has often replaced "This is what gets us through this".

None of which means we don't believe in Purpose. We do. We think it can, and should, be fundamental in companies' recovery - and far beyond that. But it has to be done properly. In our first piece of this 'Recovery' series, we discussed Consciousness. That should be the essential foundation for any Purpose: where is the world going, what do people care about, what do they want and expect of you? That sets the context for your Purpose.

What is your place and the contribution you can make to the world? How will you demonstrably make things better? That means that your Purpose has to be measurable and that it has to be directly connected to the business: obviously in terms of your values and beliefs, but also in your competencies and the tangible things you do. Is a coffee bar business really going to nurture the human spirit? Is a law firm likely to improve healthcare in Africa?

A vague and over-stretched Purpose statement is as much use as not having one at all. And even the tightest and most credible promise can't do it all by itself. It needs to be based in that Consciousness we described earlier, and then to carry through four further qualities:

Courage: to be bold, to lead and to be accountable

Integrity: to earn trust and respect for doing the right thing

Generosity: to recognise that other people's priorities might come first

Delivery: to ensure that Purpose informs every decision and action (and can therefore prove that "what gets measured gets done")

We'll discuss these four dimensions in more detail over the next few days.

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