An increasing number of organizations are talking about purpose. Purpose is the reason for which something exists. But when people talk about purpose they don’t just mean a goal. They mean purposefulness, a deeper meaning, a higher purpose. This is what some call the purpose economy, one that is geared towards good and the social and environmental benefit of the community at large. How can purpose be an advantage?
The advantage of purpose-driven organizations
Those organizations that are driven by a purpose which goes beyond simply making a profit will have a clear advantage. Why? Because they will be able to harness the goodwill of their community and the involvement of their people and this will have a positive impact on economic results.
However, purpose cannot simply be good intentions and lip service. It needs to be fully integrated into the operational reality of the organization. Achieving this starts with a different kind of thinking.
Systemic, integrative thinking
Traditional thinking tells us that by dividing things up we can control them more easily. That’s why businesses have, literally, “divisions” and functions. The problem is, reality doesn’t work that way and science has been telling us so for some time now.
Our world today is interconnected in an unprecedented way. This is complexity – a vast network of interdependencies. Navigating this complex reality requires us to understand and behave in a connected, integrated way. That starts with how we think.
When we being to think systemically, we see the whole picture. We see the work of an organization for what it really is: it is made up essentially of processes and projects, not divisions. We understand that our focus has to be on creating the right processes and improving flow, that people’s behavior needs to be synchronized. And we see beyond the confines of our own organization to the entire supply chain, the surrounding community, and what the implications of our actions are on all the stakeholders involved. This understanding underpins an inherently more ethical way of doing business.
Purpose and flow
When we have an organization focused on continuously improving quality and flow, not only can its people be more involved, it has a clearer way of delivering its purpose. The ability to conceive an organization that works strategically and operationally to achieve a higher purpose starts with systemic thinking. This means being able to see connections that others don’t see. It is an ‘ecology of the mind’. It is this ability to think and see connections and to design consistent actions that will lead to long-term, sustainable and ethical results. The bodies of work produced by W. Edwards Deming, the founding father of Quality, and Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt who developed the Theory of Constraints have provided all the thinking and tools required to continuously improve Quality, Involvement and Flow, and the Ten Steps of the Decalogue methodology combine these bodies of knowledge into a structured, systemic approach.
Sign up to our blog here and shift your thinking towards broader, systemic possibilities for yourself and your organization.
About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management, founded by Dr. Domenico Lepore. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York. Angela’s new business novel+ website The Human Constraint looks at how Deming and theTheory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation.