Management Imperative #4: Provide A Clear And Compelling Purpose

Managamet Imperative #4- Provide a clear and compelling purpose

Just about every large organization has vision and mission statements floating around their hallways. But when it comes to making decisions on a day-to-day basis, these documents are nowhere to be found. They play NO ROLE in how the company is actually run.

Instead, firms make decisions based on individual goals and objectives, a handful of hard metrics, and by finding compromises across conflicting executive agendas. And that’s the best case. Often times decisions aren’t coordinated at all.

That’s why organizations need to (re)introduce a clear purpose for their organization that is more compelling than just more profits; a raison d’être that aligns the myriad of day-to-day decisions of all employees. According to Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines:

If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.

Here are some ways for executives to provide a clear and compelling purpose:

  • Rediscover your brand. At some point in time in a company’s history, its brand was likely synonymous with its core mission. Over time, though, brands are delegated to corporate marketing departments where they get translated into color palettes and advertising campaigns. Executive teams need to redefine the meaning of their company’s brands; reconnecting it with the overall mission of the company.
  • Look for alignment. While shareholders want growth and profits, these objectives aren’t compelling enough to align decisions. So executives must clearly define what makes their company special from the standpoint of customers and employees. Ask yourself: What criteria do we want employees using when they make decisions?
  • Market to employees. Firms shouldn’t just assume that employees understand what’s important to the company. They need to maintain internal marketing campaigns to get the message out. Execs should develop plans for touching all employees, from recruiting materials to new hire training to ongoing communications.
  • Make decisions purposefully. Employees can tell what’s really important by looking at what executives say and the decisions they make. So execs need to make sure that they act consistently with what they say is important. Remember, you can’t fake it.

The bottom line: Without a compelling purpose, employees make a myriad of unaligned decisions.

P.S. Here’s a link to all 6 New Management Imperatives

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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