Make purpose your bouncer.Priya Parker1
If you had 100% clarity, every decision would be obvious. How great would that be?
Although 100% clarity isn’t possible—none of us are oracles that can predict the future—it is possible to achieve much greater levels of clarity than your competitors because if your competitors are like most businesses, they’re operating in a light fog instead of clear air.
Maximizing clarity is a distinct advantage: if your decisions become easier and more accurate it means you’re wasting less time and money on things that don’t propel your business forward.
To propel you forward, you need to know where you want to go and then drive every member of the organization to get there.
But, in most organizations it’s not everyone working toward a greater goal; it’s some working toward the organization’s goal and a lot of people working toward their own agendas. In most cases, this isn’t the fault of the individuals, but rather the organization failing to make it clear where people should go, why they should be inspired, and what behaviors they should use to get there.
This lack of organizational clarity creeps up everywhere
It’s the meetings that are held just because they were on a schedule but waste time because they lack a purposeful focus to push the organization forward.
It’s the advertising that misses the mark but gets run anyway because you’re out of time and a budget, or even worse: because nobody realized it was off the mark until after it ran.
It’s all the data that gets gathered and reviewed but never gets incorporated into an actual strategy.
It’s the extreme focus on competitors and trying to outcompete them only at the category level instead of doing what you can do better than anyone else.
It’s the constant attempt to try something completely new to grab attention and stand out instead of focusing on new ways to showcase what you excel at.
The list goes on.
As businesses get more complex, clarity becomes more important.
When we’ve worked with clients, we’ve noticed that even though a lot of them have a vision, it isn’t functioning strongly; it’s usually just words that are said often but translated into action only occasionally. They should be driving the business, but they aren’t.
There are two common reasons why they aren’t functioning.
The first is that the vision isn’t motivating enough. In this case, it was usually created in a relatively short amount of time and created because it’s something the organization felt like it should do. This is often simply because everyone else is doing it and they’ve heard that it’s supposed to help an organization become more focused and competitive. A vision only becomes an advantage when it can drive change. To do so, it must be created out of a desire to achieve something greater than just profit—the company must have a purpose that fuels the vision.
The second is that they don’t translate the vision into strategies and behaviors. The employees don’t understand how the vision applies to their everyday decision making. Often, the strategy is generated purely on what’s happening now (the short-term), instead of considering what’s happening now (the short-term) in the context of where the business wants to go and what it wants to achieve (its long-term vision). As a result, the short-term and the long-term don’t align. Other times, the company makes an effort by creating core values in an attempt to create a culture but does little to reinforce the core values in the everyday behaviors of its employees. The core values end up becoming just words instead of true values, as true values guide behavior and force you to consider what you’d be willing to give up in order to protect the values. A passionate purpose and vision should translate into core values and strategies to implement the core values that are actionable enough to guide everyday behaviors.
Achieving clarity is a lot like working out: it takes a lot of effort to get going in the beginning because you need to develop a strong foundation and consistent behavior. But, as you develop those behaviors consistently over time, they become a lot easier to enact on a daily basis.
And, building a strong foundation starts with building a compelling company vision that can both influence decision making and rally your employees in service of it.
P.S. If you want to create a company vision that leads to daily actions, we’ve created The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Company Vision. You can learn more about it by clicking here.
- Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, 2018. ↩