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How to Inspire Business Performance Beyond Boundaries

Designing the Purposeful Organization (9780749472207)



What motivated you to write this book?

In almost thirty years, working with clients on leadership, organizational change and team working, our practitioners at Primeast have seen how a compelling purpose can significantly energise performance.  We have also seen the other side of this coin.  An inappropriate focus, that only sees the work of the organization from one perspective, can cause disastrous outcomes, ranging from demotivated staff, unsatisfied customers, poor returns to investors and a negative image for the organization. Secondary consequences include conflict, diversion and complete collapse.  So, I set out to write a book that summarises our experience and provides a practical guide to organizational development professionals and leaders to help them establish the conditions for “purposeful” success.

What do you mean by the “purposeful organization”?

For me, a purposeful organization is one that has considered its purpose from the perspective of all stakeholders (e.g. staff, customers, shareholders, leaders, community, regulating bodies and so on).  It has examined the resonance and dissonance between these views and worked to establish its most inspiring reason for doing what it does, without losing sight of all stakeholder needs. It then carefully crafts everything that it does to ensure alignment to this purpose. Special attention is paid to vision, engagement, structure, character, results, success and talent. Each of these is explored further in its own chapter in Designing the Purposeful Organization.

What are the benefits of a purposeful organization?

The benefits of a purposeful organization are many-fold. Alignment to purpose brings efficiency and enhanced performance. Working with the synergy between stakeholder perspectives brings collaboration, creativity and inspiration. Exploring dissonance and difference in an appreciative manner creates deeper understanding and reduces the likelihood of conflict further down the track.  Taking time to align personal purpose with organizational purpose creates meaning for people in the work they do, which in turn has many secondary benefits such as enthusiasm, loyalty and the ability to attract new talent. Using purpose to focus the efforts of a particular team is a precursor to high performing teamwork and the establishment of a felt sense of success (a crucial topic in its own right which is further explored in Chapter 7 of the book).

How can your book help people to create this kind of organization?

I trust that this book will serve as a “how to” guide for anyone who wishes to create a purposeful organization. It is built around a narrative summarising the experiences of the Primeast family of practitioners and supplemented with something for everyone. It has examples of best practice, activities, case studies, quotations, lists of tips and book summaries signposting further reading.  According to Kelly Goff who wrote the foreword to the book, “The guidance on how to help an organization get to the ‘why’ of its existence and be able to synergise the perspectives of multiple stakeholder views into an integrated purpose is inspirational.”  This is reassuring coming from one of the world’s most respected specialists in organizational effectiveness. Kelly is Global OE Director at Raytheon in the US, having held senior OE roles with ExxonMobil and NASA.

What do you think the main problems are when companies only focus on results?

So many organizations over-focus on results. They even use expressions like “results-driven” or “show me the numbers”. Of course results matter: they are our measure of progress to the delivery of our vision which in turn is a playing out of purpose. But results should be exactly that – a measure, and not a driver. Results-driven organizations tear the heart and soul out of the work undertaken by their people. They lose their sense of direction and the motivation of far too many of their people.  They also create boundaries around their performance where purpose can literally be used to inspire performance beyond boundaries as the subtitle of the book suggests. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge when trying to create a purpose-driven organization?

The biggest challenge is getting full leadership buy-in to the concept of a purposeful organization, together with the commitment to steadfastly align absolutely everything that is done to purpose. To do this properly means regular attention to direction, the fine-tuning of process, methodical culture change and a learning and development curriculum that is consciously tuned to the purpose of the organization. And invariably the decision to become purpose-driven doesn’t happen at a convenient time when the “pause” button can be pressed on day-to-day operations and commercial pressures.  This is an evolving journey that requires leadership and determination.

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