Profit from Purpose Instead of Profit as a Purpose

Do you know what is your company’s purpose? Does it even have a purpose?  I know, it seems like a silly question… But, does it?

A purpose is something inspirational that can drive the work of people. It is something that they can pursue and towards which they will strive to do their best work.

Let’s say you are the in the business of making reading lamps, for example, your stated purpose might be…

“We create beautiful lamps with superb quality.”

It might not be fancy, but it is clear and easy for everyone to understand and relate to. We want to make great looking lamps and we want them to be of very good quality.  This is a purpose that is easy for people to understand and relate to.

Today, regardless of what they state, most companies have a single purpose: profit.  Over time companies have confused their purpose with their financial goals, forgetting that profit should stem from executing well its purpose.

Everywhere you go, be it in the US, Europe, Brazil or elsewhere, you see the same situation and confusion.  Executives tell the same story of strategy planning meetings and retreats where they discuss how to achieve the projected financial results, instead of how they will do a better job towards fulfilling the company’s stated purpose.  In fact, regularly this purpose isn’t even remembered during discussions, except perhaps in so far as they serve to determine specific markets the company operates in.

Does this sound familiar to you?

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Previous Century Thinking

Change is all around us, and happening at breakneck speed. This is a reality that most organizations haven’t yet acknowledged, they are stuck in Previous Century Thinking, and that leads to some very weird situations. Let’s consider a couple of points.

Do you know of a company called Docker? If you work in a company that is involved with an Internet service offering, you’ve probably heard of them.   They’ve developed and shared a technology that makes the distribution of pre-configured, Linux-based, applications, such as web servers and application servers, much easier. In just about 18 months this company went from zero to having its technology being adopted by Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, among others. Now consider that at a typical company, as a manager, you may get asked to plan and budget your projects for the forthcoming year, well in advance of the end of the current year. This is so that the projects may be discussed in committee meetings and perhaps approved. There are companies that actually ask managers to name the people who will be working on each project over a year ahead the project starting.

You don’t even know if you will be alive in a year, how can you accurately estimate who will be the best person for whatever task without knowing what is going to happen between now, and then? What if a new product or product category enters the market which makes your future project irrelevant? Or proves that it is so relevant that you should start it early and devote more resources?

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