When we embarked upon this series we set ourselves the daunting task of answering the question; does purpose really drive performance? Throughout the series, we have outlined the characteristics needed for purpose to drive performance – it has to be authentic, aligned and advancing (article 1). It also needs to have been thoughtfully and intentionally discovered and articulated (article 2). However, we haven’t really touched how purpose can be effectively integrated into an organisation so that it becomes a driver of behaviour. Purpose needs to fit within the company’s brand promise – its vision, mission, ambitions, principles, and priorities. When these characteristics are met, purpose acts as the catalyst to fuse the company’s culture and brand promise together.
When the culture and brand promise become one, a company has the ultimate potential to attain peak performance and to deliver meaningful social impact.
Throughout our careers to date we have seen many examples of purpose that does not embody the characteristics outlined above, and as a result cannot be integrated effectively or drive improved performance. In these instances, in order to improve performance one or multiple of the brand promise, culture or purpose will have to be amended.
Purpose is also most effective in driving performance at the intersection between individual employees’ and organisational purpose – one of our core areas of focus. This is because this intersection is where an individual’s inside-out motivators align with organisational goals and objectives, thus enabling them to experience flow and be intrinsically motivated to attain peak performance while delivering meaningful social impact.
The process for integrating purpose
As with any transformation programme, the process of purpose-driven performance enrichment, is to establish and execute roadmaps for change against an ideal future-state culture – the one through which we believe we would best exemplify and achieve our purpose. So, first we outline what this culture would look like. Then, we conduct an audit of this ideal state against the current culture (cultural reality). The performance objective is to align and amplify employee’s actions, by ensuring their shared purpose is front of mind, tangible and consequential.
To simplify this review process, we use a Purpose Driven Performance Matrix. The matrix provides a consistent view of the cultural-drivers overlaid across various performance-enablers within the business, to identify areas of strength or weakness that need to be amplified or addressed
Critical to the success of the matrix is engaging key stakeholders to review each of the 7 performance-enablers and assess the current (informal and formal) company culture against the ideal future-state culture. This highlights where performance-enablers and cultural drivers are misaligned, which can then be compared, consolidated and executed. In our experience, leaders, managers and teams all then benefit from coaching through the performance change process. The coaches provide an objective back-bone to align, assess and adapt change efforts across the organisation, and to ensure a consistent approach to purpose implementation.
The Purpose-Driven Performance Matrix is here: (sample, traffic light version)
A summary of elements in the framework is provided here:
- Belief: what we believe as individuals and collectively as a company, motivates us on a journey towards our vision, as we strive to hit various milestones and strategic ambitions along the way. Our beliefs are framed, undermined or reinforced by various of the 7Ps across the company ecosystem. For example, if the company’s principles (values & behaviours) don’t align and advance people’s actions towards the vision, employees’ belief in that vision will fade, as it will seem unattainable and inauthentic.
- Expectation: our beliefs form our expectations. What are we striving to achieve, how do we expect to be treated, how are we rewarded or punished based upon our efforts or outcomes? Again, this is influenced by all of the 7Ps but for example, if a company’s brand promise does not clearly state its direction (vision and ambitions) – how can the company expect its employees to have clarity on their priorities, let alone holding themselves and each other to high expectations.
- Attitude: Attitude is infectious, so positive attitudes are a core driver of a positive company culture. The reverse is also true for negative attitudes. For attitude, there is a strong (circular) feedback loop between expectations (what people strive for) and experience (their day to day reality). Taking another P- People; if interactions between employees are tense, erratic, or consistently negative, it would be incredibly hard to build a positive attitude company wide.
- Experience: Experiences reflect people’s daily reality from the moment they engage in their workday to the moment they disengage. One critical component to experiences are the human interactions – connections, relationships, communications (i.e. the people) but experiences can also be shared by processes (including policies) & practices. In other words, how should things be done – communicated, actioned, handed off and looped back vs how are they done. Alignment between processes and practices is critical for establishing a consistent employee experience but equally important is the quality of the processes themselves (how are they defined via policies). Inefficient processes and inconsistent practices can lead to a volatile and unpredictable culture, and act as a bottleneck to for the company’s purpose (reason for being) being embedded and lived.
- Action: actions are clearly where the rubber meets the road – what people actually get done, how they document and measure performance, how they really interact. Again, actions are affected by all the Ps and intentional observation of actions internally will often unearth the real culture- whether formal or informal, and how closely that aligns to the formally espoused culture and ideal future-state culture. Additionally, if we look at the interface between the company and its external stakeholders, the quality and alignment of its products to its stated promise & purpose, in addition to the partners the company chooses to deliver its promise and purpose, are critical. These external interfaces are levers which will further amplify a positive or negative culture, and either accelerate or undermine any true delivery of purpose-driven performance improvement.
The 7Ps outlined below are internally controlled performance enablers. Beyond these 7 Ps are the Profit, Planet & Public (the triple bottom line outcomes, so many ESG officers are focused on). A well-integrated purpose defines the company’s intentions around the planet (sustainability) and public (societal benefit), which reach beyond, but drive (as a biproduct) profit.
- Promise: As defined earlier a company’s brand promise must align with and demonstrate advancement of purpose. Because the purpose itself should be inspirational and aspirational, it is particularly important that the vision points to a tangible future destination and the mission provides clarity and some guardrails to what we do and how we do it, in order to get there. These three elements combined then need to be complimented by the strategic ambitions, and operating priorities that the company focuses on day to day. Hence, brand promise is our starting point on the performance-enablers.
- Principles: Principles are the behaviours associated with the company values. So, as long as the company has clearly defined these behaviours, the term principle vs value can be used interchangeably. Principles are the anchors and guardrails to the culture. In order to be effective, they need to connect the purpose (why) with the vision (where) and mission (what and how). They need to be clearly stated, understood and easily demonstrated.
- People: As Jim Collins stated in his book Good to Great – “Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus”. So, we need the right people, in the right roles and with right levels of responsibility. We need to get the right balance of skill-fit and culture-fit. As far as it pertains to purpose-driven performance, it is top down and bottom up, so absolutely critical that leadership model their commitment to the company purpose. If we don’t have this buy-in, we might as well stop here.
- Processes: (which encompass Policies & Procedures), are the flows of communication and action for tasks and projects to be completed. As such, they can be far reaching and demonstrated through company communication (consistency & repetition), compensation, reporting, measurement & performance reviews, for instance. Processes can be enablers or inhibitors, so the simple question to answer in relation to purpose driven performance is “how does this process embrace our purpose and drive our performance”. Some processes may be neutral, and that’s ok but we want to avoid processes that are negative and ideally replicate processes that accelerate purpose and performance.
- Practices: are the practical habits exhibited throughout the company. These may include celebrations, feedback (formal and informal), rituals and routines, storytelling, openness to share mistakes and vulnerabilities, how the company instills a sense of safety, belonging & trust. Practices may also be used to encourage growth through how professional development is embraced, shadowing and mentors, taking on and embracing new challenges. Alignment of practices to processes is one key determinant of performance. Another is the extent to which practices are positive and embrace or compliment the purpose.
- Partners: similarly, to the last point but from an external perspective – to what extent are our key partners aligned with our purpose and performance objectives? Further, depending upon how we define our desired impact on the world (public and planet) are we engaging the right partners to achieve and demonstrate this? How can our partners advance and accelerate this impact? This is another reason why we are strong proponents for and have specialist expertise in, the thoughtful fusion of causes into companies.
- Products (Service): Ultimately, products (including services) are our internally designed but externally experienced expression of our purpose. Going back to our Purpose Discovery Model – ideal, purpose-driven products will be passionately designed, uniquely differentiated, socially impactful and sustainably profitable.
The Purpose-Driven Performance Matrix is one of a number of cultural evaluation models and methods a company may consider as they continuously strive to attain peak performance and deliver meaningful social impact. It its simplest form it helps to highlight things that are going well, in addition to areas that require improvement. Further, it identifies patterns and correlations across the organization, that may benefit from a consolidated and focused approach. Importantly however, defining and continuously benchmarking to an ideal future-state culture that intentionally integrates and honours the purpose, is a critical differentiator. Purpose is the magic ingredient that ignites and inspires sustainable change. Purpose acts as the catalyst to seamlessly fuse together the brand promise and culture. It is in this combined state where leaders and employees are inspired and thus where peak performance and meaningful social impact, have the best potential to be achieved.
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