It has been an extraordinary week. It is as though the whole world has aligned with my endeavours. New light has radiantly illuminated my inner convictions while the echoes of my expression have reverberated through everything I have heard. This powerful cornucopia of sight and sound has fired the furnace that has recharged my purpose, reinvigorated my hopes and re-energised my actions. Let me share the details in the hope that you will experience the same thing.
It all started with a call to watch Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED talk, "How great leaders inspire action." It was not the first time I had seen this talk, but it was if I had never heard it before. His statement “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” seared through me like a hot knife through butter. I immediately re-examined and recommitted to my own purpose: to transform the workplace. In the process, I made a diagram of his “Golden Circle” to help me stay on track.
It cannot be coincidence, but at the same time I was reading Frederic Laloux’s "Reinventing Organizations"; every page of which reinforced the principles I have been espousing and the ideas I have been writing about. The bells and whistles all starting ringing, however, when I came across his reference to Norman Wolfe’s "The Living Organization" and the depiction of the relative importance of context, relationships and activity. I realised that this was nothing more than a different way of depicting Sinek’s “Golden Circle.” (I love the implication the 'how' is totally dependent on people!)
I cannot tell you how exulting it was to find 2 different people saying the same thing. What was, however, even more exciting was that “Why” and “Context” are just different terms to depict ‘purpose.’ For years now I have been championing the power of purpose as the primary driver for any organisation. Any organisation only comes into existence to fulfill a need. The more clearly it understands that need, the more clearly it understands it purpose and the better it fulfills it.
More significant, however, is the fact that purpose is personal. As organisations are virtual people only – i.e. they are anthropomorphic with a legal standing which entitles them to be considered and treated as people, but do not otherwise have the characteristics of humans – they cannot have a purpose of their own volition. An organisation’s initial purpose is thus shaped by its founders and its ongoing pursuit of that purpose has to be co-ordinated and channelled by the people who work in it and for it. Therefore the extent to which an organisation fulfills its purpose or the effectiveness with which it does so, is ultimately – and exclusively dependent on those people. Logically then, the more its people are attuned to that purpose, the more effective the organisation will be.
It then also logically follows that, in addition to a value buy-in, people will align more closely to the organisational purpose if it also helps them achieve their own individual purpose.
Yet this is something that is currently largely ignored by the conventional management model. As Laloux identifies, the idea of people as a resource is an inherent part of a paradigm that looks at the organisation as a machine. One person can simply be replaced by another. When, however, you look at the organisation as an organism – something I have been advocating for the past decade or more – this does not make sense.
In any organism the constituent parts know their function. They all work together to keep the organism alive. Thus when faced with any disruptive circumstance they immediately respond in the most appropriate manner to ensure this. Thus change is evolutionary. Everything works together to restore what is normal or to create the new normal. In a machine this is not possible; change has to be engineered. This is revolutionary and demands some sort or project, with all the elements of project management that entitles. And clearly, given the failure rate of around 70% for all change initiatives, this does not auger well. In fact, in a fast-paced world where change is endemic it is suicidal.
You would therefore expect me to endorse Laloux’s book. It mirrors everything I have been championing and validates my efforts. I would, however go beyond endorsing it and go so far as to say it stands as one of the best and most inspiring business books I have ever read. It transcends the usual cries for a new management model, and, without being prescriptive, presents one – with powerful case studies of a variety of organisations that have transcended the machine model to epitomise the living-entity or organic model.
For me, it is also re-energising because it strengthens the case for my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model, which can fertilise and incubate the living-entity model. By serving as a catalyst to create and cement common purpose, it creates a culture where self-interest and self-fulfilment combine to ensure that everyone is working for the good of the organisation. That is when the business becomes our business and the future of the organisation becomes more assured.
And that is where love is made manifest, and where I received a further boost for my ‘Love at Work’ mantra. I received a link to a Huffington Post article on that very subject. This removed any lingering misgivings about moving forward to promote the concept. I was particularly struck by the depiction of the “happiness system.”
Only, where the article points out that the closer to the centre a circle is, the greater the effect on happiness, I would argue that the forces are bi-directional and are both inputs and outcomes. Hence the effects are mutually reinforcing: The happier you feel the more you experience and demonstrates these positive elements and the more constructive relationships will be. And this applies just as much at work as it does in every other arena of life. I would also posit that purpose is much more important than the chart portrays and perhaps merits a circle all of its own.
Here’s to your purpose!
If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.