The purpose statement – etched and forgotten?

The Purpose statement.

Does it answer the why question? Is it simple and easy to remember? Does it motivate and rally people to a common cause? Does it provide long term direction?

I’m a believer in purpose statements for organizations. But I haven’t always seen them worked, presented, discussed, referenced, or memorized.  Writing a purpose statement is hard work. So why do so many organizations just put the statement in a document and rarely reference it again?stone

The next step.

I’ve been a member of two organizations that kept the purpose statement in front of members.  Both of organizations were churches. The statement was both printed in the weekly bulletin and referenced when the church performed activities. The statements were simple, concise, easy to memorize, and actionable. They just worked.

But I’ve been in other organizations that either didn’t have a purpose statement, didn’t publish it, or had one that was almost half a page of jargon and corporate speak. Putting a purpose statement into circulation and practice is hard too. It requires intentional actions. It requires consistent application. In a word, it requires purpose.

Some practical steps to put the purpose statement into circulation.

  1. Ask group members or employees if they identify with the purpose statement. Does it motivate them and help them feel like their work contributes to a greater whole.
  2. Start placing the purpose on documents used for employee communications. Keep it visible and not just hanging on a wall.
  3. Reference and align the purpose statement when tactical decisions are made. Explain how activities, projects, and decisions align to the purpose.

I need to follow my own advice on this topic. It’s a wake-up call to keep thinking with long term purpose in mind.  Otherwise we might just go the direction the wind blows.

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

– Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865


Onward and Upward!