I was listening to a panel discussion recently on the future of work. The panel was asked, “What will organizations NOT be talking about in the future?” The panel responded with “purpose and passion”. Because once the organization buys-into it, the conversation is over.
Some would argue that a company’s purpose is different from its mission, vision or values. I read an article in Harvard Business Review that defined purpose as “what we’re doing for someone else.” Purpose has more of a customer-centric focus. Passion is an emotion and can be defined as the energy that fulfills the company purpose.
Using those definitions, I get it. Once everyone agrees on the organization’s purpose and identifies the passions (both individual and team) that will fulfil the purpose…the conversation is done.
At least for a little while.
The way I see it, the company purpose could evolve over time. If you look at the Harvard Business Review article, it mentions that insurance company IAG’s purpose is “To help people manage risk and recover from the hardship of unexpected loss.” A good purpose. But what if they decide their purpose is to educate people so they don’t have to deal with losses in the first place? That’s a change.
Now, I’m not suggesting that IAG change its purpose. The point is that any organization can. And if they decide to make that change, then the passion piece changes too. Which means conversations need to happen.
In fact, maybe organizations should want to talk about their passion and purpose on a regular basis. I have to think that companies don’t want to keep it a secret. Sales, marketing, and human resources talk about passion and purpose with customers and candidates. So a consistent discussion to make sure that passion and purpose are aligned could be very beneficial to the entire organization.
I understand that all the talk about company purpose and passion can come across as a bit sappy. I’ve heard those conversations too. But honestly, it’s supposed to. Purpose and passion are supposed to be motivational and engaging. Which is why I think companies should talk about them regularly.
Because if you don’t talk about them, how engaging are they really? And will the company be able to accomplish them after all?
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby (stats courtesy of SAP SuccessFactors) at the HR Technology Conference1