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Moving to a purpose-centric focus

Will the crisis be big?  How long will it last?  Will it be a type of a V curve or a U curve?  How will we be affected?  How will we be the next day?  How should we respond?

I think these are some of the questions that more or less concern us all now. But the reality is that this crisis we are living in today, brings forward and faster some of the trends that have already begun to take shape in recent years.

One of these contemporary trends is that for various reasons related to the global challenges that humanity is facing today, businesses need to move towards a new model, where purpose is at the centre (Purpose – Centric) and affects seriously strategy, plans and execution. A Purpose – Centric organisation, for the reasons outlined below, has more ability to cope with any crisis faster and more successfully than otherwise.

 Why purpose-centric?

  • What is Purpose?

Purpose is not vision or mission.  There is often a confusion between these three different meanings.  Purpose answers to the question 'Why are we here?'

  • Should Purpose be one or multiple?

Until recently, we tended to link purpose only with the bottom line, i.e. with satisfactory financial results, the satisfaction of the shareholders and consequently with the long-term existence of the company.

This is changing now.  Consumers, investors and societies in general look more and more for ‘CSV/Creating Shared Value’, ‘CSR’ and ‘Green’ credentials in order to make their choices. The successful businesses of the future will be those that will serve with the same success a kind of a ‘Dual Purpose’.  They will be the ones that will be able to achieve great business results, but at the same time be able to create social value to the societies that they serve.

  • What should its content be?

We believe that the content, i.e. the description of purpose should not be neither too general, nor too narrow. But it should be exact and specific. The statement must be such as to enable people and teams to understand how it connects with strategy, plans and with their own everyday actions.

How to make this model work

  1. Review the organisational model.  In the case of dual purpose model, most probably you will have to make changes, if the structure is traditional. New roles that will oversee the progress towards the creation of social value must be defined
  2. Hire the right people with the right mindset and attitude. Educate and train the whole organisation in CSV matters
  3. Enhance cross-functional collaboration
  4. Set CSV KPIs and measure the progress
  5. Lead from the front.  Ensure that leaders and key people embrace the new concept
  6. Ensure the connection and the relation of Purpose to Strategy, Plans and Execution in everyday life.  Make it practical, if you want to make it work.

Consumers, investors and societies in general look more and more for ‘CSV/Creating Shared Value’, ‘CSR’ and ‘Green’ credentials in order to make their choices.

What is the benefit of this approach for the business?

In summary, there are at least 5 major benefits.

  1. A purpose-driven organisation is able to redefine the playing field faster and better. This is because they have a broader view and set of interests. Therefore they can change, expand and grow faster than others.
  2. During a crisis these businesses usually adopt the trends faster.
  3. They are able to restate the value proposition in a broader and better way, thus softening the effects of crisis on the ecosystems that they serve. They are both effective and efficient. During a big crisis, traditional businesses tend to think about efficiency, but efficiency doesn’t mean effectiveness.
  4. The employees and teams in these companies during a crisis are united and more passionate than otherwise. Because they are connected around a common and clear purpose.  They know exactly ‘why they are there’ and they are proud of it.
  5. Finally, these businesses will tend to be better in attracting talent, and young generations/millennials are often sensitive towards social matters.

All the above benefits make these companies more sustainable and more effective in the management of crisis.  This is the key takeaway of this analysis. We do not say that businesses have to think and act in a new purpose – driven way, because they have to look ‘nice’, ‘good’, ‘soft’, or ‘popular’.  But because this model will make them more successful and more sustainable in the long – run than otherwise.


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Yiannis Zarkadis (MSc Management Science 1987

About Yiannis Zarkadis

MSc Management Science 1987
Yiannis Zarkadis (MSc Management Science 1987), is Founder of CONSULT2XL. In his blogs he draws on his experiences working at Unilever, GrandMet/IDV, SC Johnson and Bacardi, over his extensive corporate career.