Provocation of the month:
”Everything has to have a purpose.”
From glass to photosynthesis
Everything has to have a purpose and thereby a right to exist. There is a reason why everything exists. A glass, a projector, a bedroom, the local bus all have a purpose or a reason to exist. So has the sun, the rain and the photosynthesis. Our workplace also has a purpose and thereby the right to exist. The company, the hospital, the school and the office upstairs all have a purpose.
What do we then mean by purpose or the reason to exist?
There is a meaning or a role for the company, the hospital, the school and the office upstairs. There is always a need or deficiency within ourselves and/or among people in our surroundings that people want to have addressed. The reason for our organization to exist is to deal with these needs or deficiencies. When there is no need or deficiency for what we do we should end or terminate what we do. Then there is no purpose - and everything has to have a purpose.
This sounds difficult and unnecessary
Why do we have to justify what we do with a clear and meaningful purpose? It sounds difficult and unnecessary. Isn’t it obvious for whom and why we do what we do?! It is good when our purpose is so well defined and evident. Then we also have the motivation, will, energy and creativity when we get to our workplace. There are, though, situations where the purpose is not so clear and evident, and we may experience low energy and lack of creativity and from time to time perhaps question what we do and if we are doing the right things. In the worst case we may only go to work to get our pay check so that we can live our life outside work.
For whom do we then exist?
Thinking and acting Outside-in and Inside-out, in a balanced way over time, has always been in focus in Lots®. It was natural to think this way when our predecessors once started our workplace. It was evident to them for whom and why the organization was started. You may see that yourself if you go back to the start of your organization or workplace. The role and purpose in the society was in that sense very clear.
One illustrating example is the one where the management team of a leading dairy products company regarded the farmers to be their customers. Reflection and processing took them, via wholesalers and stores, to families with children as the company’s customers. This process and increased consciousness has led to an impressive individual, team and business and product development and the company is now one of the leading companies in Europe. The insight that the company is there for the families and not the farmers (although they are a very important stakeholder) has had a great impact throughout the entire organization. That does not mean that the farmers are less important, but they are not our reason to exist.
A leading airline company saw the travel agencies as their customers. Processing led to the insight that their customer was the frequent business traveler. The management team of a city said spontaneously that the politicians were their customers. After reflection they realized the obvious, that they were there for the people in the city.
It is so important that we all in an organization are aware of for whom we exist and why and what we are expected to do for them. How clear is this in your organization?
What is the purpose of our role when we are a part of an organization?
It is so easy to forget our role or purpose as the organization grows and expands. We may also forget how important our teamwork is in order to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations through a co-creative culture. We can easily become too Inside-out when we look at our role or purpose, or the role or purpose of our organization. We may become so Inside-out that we only focus on what is best for myself and my near and dear and we forget our true customers and the team that develops the competence to meet the customers and stakeholders expectations, today and tomorrow.
The kiosk and the million Euro question
You open up a kiosk on the main street in your home town. You sell newspapers, candy, fruits and more. You are alone running the kiosk. Who is your customer? Or For whom do you exist? People in the city walking on my street, you say. It is so evident, and it is their needs and expectations you should meet and exceed.
Your kiosk is doing well and you expand and now you are four people. You plan and run the business, two are selling and one picks up goods and puts them in the right place in the kiosk. Who is the customer of the guy that supplies the goods to the sales people? For whom does he exist? Is it those that live in the city and show up on the main street or the sales people in the kiosk?
The one million Euro question: How many employees should there be in an organization in order for some people no longer having the true customer as their customer?
Who is the customer of the HR manager in the dairy products company? For whom does he/she exist? Who is the customer of the CFO of the airline company? For whom does he/she exist? Who is the customer of the head of maintenance in the hospital? For whom does he/she exist?
Three important questions to all of us:
1. For whom do we exist or who is our customer?
2. What is our customer’s situation?
3. What will we do for our customers?
It is most natural that we all in an organization have the same answers to the first two questions, independently of what we do or what our role is. The answers to question number three will be different though, depending on what our role or competence is for our common customers and their situation. All of us will, however, combine all our efforts (question three) to a strong solution to our present and future customers’ satisfaction.
Spend some time reflecting over who you are here for, or for whom you exist (professionally and privately if you like challenges) Try to explain the situation of your customer, his/her concerns and expectations. Finally reflect over what you and your organization can do for your customers and what stakeholders that you need in order to be your customer’s preferred choice.