Tell me – what’s your purpose?

sub purposeTo be clear about our work – namely, who we are serving, how to do the work, how to change, what improvement looks like- we need to be clear about one thing:

WHAT IS OUR PURPOSE?

Peter Scholtes was one of the clearest writers on this concept; for him, like Deming before, everything starts with purpose;  “Without a purpose there is no system”.

Until we have clarity of purpose, all we are doing is completing sets of tasks. ‘Purpose’ should be embedded in our thinking about work, people and organisations.

Scholtes offers a very clear analogy to illustrate the importance of purpose:

“Cleaning a table cannot be a system until the purpose of the clean table is made clear. A table clean enough to eat on requires one system of cleaning. Clean enough to dance on requires another. Clean enough to perform surgery on requires yet another. Everything starts with purpose.

“What is your purpose?” is the most useful question one can be asked. 

When thinking this way, work is transformed from being seen as tasks to carry out, to become a reason to do something which adds real value; a framework for making decisions and seeking ways to improve.

Read more:

Deming, W. E. (1993) The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education, second edition. MIT CAES, Cambridge MA.

Scholtes, P. R. (1998) The Leader’s Handbook: A guide to inspiring your people and managing the daily workflow, New York: McGraw-Hill

Scholtes P.R. (1999) The New Competencies of Leadership, Total Quality Management, 10: 4&5, S704-S710.

3 thoughts on “Tell me – what’s your purpose?”

  1. Thanks for this one, Simon. You are absolutely right. Without purpose – as individuals and as organisations – we will simply be spinning our wheels.

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