The Power of Purposeful Organization Design
16th December 2014 | Clive Wilson
When I wrote Designing the Purposeful Organization – how to inspire business performance beyond boundaries, I was driven by two things. First, the overwhelming experience of our practitioners at Primeast that purposeful organizations perform well, provide enthusiastic services to their customers, deliver excellent value to investors (whatever their sector) and offer meaningful work to their employees. Second, I was driven by my intuition that purpose is even more important in the context of OD (Organization Design) than we think it is.
Driven by these two factors, I sought to explore the evidence of others to support our own beliefs and intuition. And there is plenty of evidence readily available which I reference in the book, supported by case studies, activities, exercises, and pointers to further reading. One of my favourite insights into the power of purpose includes that presented by Daniel Coyle in his book The Talent Code who explored how some people and groups of people become world class at what they do. Coyle cites practice as key to high performance but he also affirms that something is required to “ignite” a person’s talent, something inspiring that will make the practice worth doing. In other words, people need purpose to unlock their potential.
Couple this to the evidence presented by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) in their report “Purpose the Golden Thread”. CIPD concludes that purpose should be used to drive everything the organization does and be understood by everyone involved. Furthermore, the researchers conclude that purpose is much more powerful if it is understood and deployed in the round, taking all stakeholder perspectives into account. They even evidence that purely financial purposes rarely serve performance in the way they are intended. People, it seems, are less motivated by financial targets than they are by doing something they believe makes a difference from a service perspective. So the challenge for employers (and their organizational developers) is to find the inspirational purpose that serves to inspire all stakeholders and use it to define absolutely everything that is done in their name.
Designing the Purposeful Organization is written primarily for those in OD as a readable “how to” text for doing exactly what the title suggests. But it is equally useful for any business leader seeking to deliver strategic alignment and consequently high performance. It addresses the eight conditions required for a high performance, purposeful organization, these being purpose; vision; engagement; structure; character; results; success; and talent. A chapter is devoted to each.