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Creating a Meaningful Purpose is a targeted consulting intervention that builds on the Work Focus segment of the InterActive Thought-Action-Outcome Sequence.

About Purpose
Purpose builds on mission ("Why do we exist") and vision ("What is our future" – "Where are we going") by also answering the question, "What will make us proud?" As such, a well-crafted pupose statement represents our best values. A purpose serves to imbue our work with meaning as well as create a template for the development of strategic direction. It can be used to:

  • measure progress
  • identify priorities and issues
  • resolve conflicts in a way that honors "paradox and complexity"
  • focus the organization on a strategic direction
Purpose Statement: A definition
A Purpose Statement answers three questions. It tackles both of the questions of a traditional mission statement:
  • Why are we here?
  • What do we hope to accomplish?
  • What will make us proud?
Creating a Purpose Statement: The Process Overview
Burnham Rosen Group consultants vary their approach from organization to organization but, whatever the processes, all have the following principles in common:
  • Include as many people as possible. We seek to insure buy-in and exploration without compromising the effectiveness of the process.
  • Explore the significance of a Purpose Statement. We examine the impact of purpose in order to commit the group to a serious effort, and to prepare for the examination necessary to create a meaningful statement.
  • Identify what makes individuals proud. Only after exploring and understanding individual differences and similarities do participants move to the group level.
  • Allow for multiple statements to be tentatively crafted and explored.
  • Arrive at mutual agreements through mutuality, questioning and dialogue.
  • Create accountability for individuals and the group as a whole. Typically we accomplish this goal through a process of individual and group evaluation. Each of the multiple statements is evaluated by both individuals and entire group to rate how well the organization is currently achieving each tentative statement of purpose.
  • Return authority and strive to achieve a consensus. The group will decide upon a final purpose statement which best answers the question: what will make us proud? In addition they decide on the individual and group steps that they must take if the purpose is to become an accomplishment and not just another forgettable, unattainable aspiration.
  • Agree upon individual and group metrics. To mark the group’s progress towards accomplishment, the group will decide how they will hold themselves accountable.

A Case Study
A Biotech company’s mission statement was: "To create innovative products that will save human lives," This sounded like an inspiring, even great mission. However when push came to shove, this company found it could not really use this mission statement to make strategic or, indeed, even tactical decisions.

In one situation, they had to decide whether to invest an additional 200 million across 3 different products. Product A was well down the track of FDA approval and would clearly be an innovation that would save human lives; however, at best this product would only create a break-even return for the company. On the other hand products B and C (each only at the beginning of the FDA approval process) both had the potential to save lives and, if approved by the FDA, would return a substantial multiple to the company.

On the surface, this seemed like an easy decision. But the mission statement confused decision-making, and the company was caught in conflict as key product managers working on product A pointed out that to abandon their product would fly in the face of the much-touted organizational mission statement. The conflict was ultimately resolved when the company (including product A’s management team) asked the vital question, "What would make us proud?" As a result of the ensuing discussion and decision, they changed their mission statement into a Purpose Statement by adding the words: "and enable our company to generate returns that will allow us to significantly invest in research and innovative product development."