On Purpose

What does it take to create a shared purpose?

3 July 2012, Newcastle Upon Tyne

“If you have your ‘why?’ for life, then you can get along with almost any ‘how?’ ”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

It doesn’t matter how many vision statements, goals and targets adorn the walls, annual reports, and intranet backwaters of our organisations, what is all too often missing is a true sense of purpose and direction. Whilst the ‘how?’ is frequently over specified, and adherence to processes, standards and policies closely managed, many of us still lack the ‘why?’ that brings real meaning into working lives.

At our meeting in July, we addressed ourselves to the practical challenges of dealing with this deficit. Our ‘purpose surgery’ was for anyone who wanted to get to grips with key questions like:

  • What do we mean by ‘purpose’ at work?
  • Why does it matter?
  • How do you know if the stated purpose of your team, department, or organisation is the right one?
  • How do you go about deciding what it should be; what will you need and who should be involved?



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