The Path To Better Strategy Execution Starts Here

Before we unveil where the path to better strategy starts, let me start with a bold statement.

I believe the challenge for leadership in driving better strategy execution comes down to the ability or lack thereof to enlist, capture, and mobilize the emotional energy of organization or teams.

This article will zero-in on the starting point – enlisting and capturing the hearts and minds of the organization behind a worthwhile pursuit.  If you haven’t already, the first step is to trash your boring, uninspiring, and impossible-to-memorize mission statement!

Which means that the path to better strategy execution starts with an emotionally-engaging and inspiring purpose statement that moves organizations and people to action.

Mission vs. Purpose

Let’s quickly unpack the difference between mission and purpose.  A mission statement typically describes ‘what’ an organization does and for ‘whom’ they do it.  A purpose provides a deeper glimpse into the core of ‘why’ your organization exists.  Purpose defines the ultimate impact you desire to have on the world.

Below are a few illustrative examples of mission and purpose statements:

Example of Mission Statement at Barnes & Noble (representative of the traditional mission statement):

“To operate the best omni-channel specialty retail business in America, helping both our customers and booksellers reach their aspirations, while being a credit to the communities we serve.”

Four Examples of Purpose Statements:

Disney:  To make people happy.

Ikea:  Create a better everyday life for the many people.

Life is Good:  Spreading the power of optimism.

Wal-Mart:  Give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.

If you already knew what the brand ‘Life is Good’ markets, it wouldn’t be from their purpose.  Their purpose seeks to have impact far and wide.  It just so happens that t-shirts have been part of their journey – however, it’s not why they exist.

Where the mission statement describes what you do at the present time (and might shift), purpose is the motivational force that drives what you do.  A great purpose statement should far outlast any time-bound goals, products, services or areas of focus within your organization.

Purpose cements the right kind of behavior in the organization and helps the right talent self-select their way to your doorstep.  Additionally, you’ll find purpose intersecting with your brand promise and overall value proposition, as the statement has far-reaching impact – even with your customers.

Revealing Statistics

A recent Deloitte study found 73% of employees who say they work at a ‘purpose-driven company’ are engaged as compared to just 23% of those who don’t.  A purpose-driven company, as Deloitte defines it, is one that has “an important objective that creates meaningful impact for stakeholders”–those stakeholders being customers, employees, their communities, and investors.

Further evidence cites that 91 percent of leaders at purpose-driven companies felt their companies would strengthen or maintain their brand in the next 5-10 years, compared to just 49 percent of their counterparts.  The apparent confidence level of purpose-driven organizations seems to be higher, connected to stronger sense of commitment and energy.

Another study, performed by Achievers, found that close to 60% of employees do not find their company’s mission statement motivating.  Worth mentioning, only 39% actually knew their organization’s mission statement.

My caution to leaders is to be extra sensitive to complexity when it comes to defining and communicating vision, mission, purpose and values within the organization.  These different notions are often used interchangeably in an effort to ‘check the box’, only to discover that you’ve created a plethora of statements that are confusing for your teams.

Start with Purpose

It was discovered once that the two most important days in a person’s life are the day they were born, and the day they found out why.

I think the same is true for organizations.

It’s intriguing to consider how many people and organizations ever get to experience what it’s like to have a why.  Every single person and organization on the planet should have the incredible fortune to know why they exist, but many never do.

One of my favorite illustrations of this phenomena took place in 1961 when President Kennedy toured the NASA station as crews prepared to attempt the very first trip to the moon.  As he walked through the facility, it was observed that he stopped to speak with a janitor who was mopping floors.  When President Kennedy asked the man what he was doing, he replied “helping to send a man to the moon”!  The man’s gift for cleanliness, order, and helping others was passionately employed to make possible a bigger purpose of sending a man to the moon.

As leaders, we not only have the opportunity, but the obligation to ensure that our people and teams know their why inside and out.

Start with purpose.

The people and organizations that have a why can bear almost any how.

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