Management trends are increasingly focused on the importance of “why”, i.e. the reasoning behind our decisions. I’m not just talking about preparing a business case or explaining the rationale that led to a decision. It’s also a question of exploring the “why” behind the organizational mission and the impact it ultimately wants to have on its clients. This concept isn’t new, but with the daily challenges that pop up today, organizations sometimes tend to set aside this emotional engagement, which serves to rally employees and is essential to the pursuit of their objectives (to learn more, a very interesting article by my colleague Philippe Carpentier, When Emotions Drop In On Strategic Thinking).
From May 21 to 24 of this year, I had to opportunity to attend the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of the two main topics that came up was this famous “noble purpose”, i.e. a company’s basic reason for doing business. The various conferences that I attended were all very inspiring, and they got me thinking about one of my most recent mandates – an organizational transformation towards a business model focusing on client needs.
This type of approach often leads organizations to refer to a target model. Once the thought process is underway, the various teams are asked to diagnose their present situation, reflect on their chosen target, measure the gaps, and come up with ways to reach their objectives. At this stage, people often talk about optimization, process revision, cultural transformation, and so on.
Then, after looking at which model to adopt, which procedures to simplify and which internal problems to solve, organizations often tend to stray and lose sight of what their clients really need – in fact, they might not ask themselves that question until the very end of the exercise. Instead of focusing on the “why” behind the transformation, most of the energy is devoted to the “how”. Needs are identified based on intuition, anticipation and past experience, without really stepping into the clients’ shoes and considering their evolving mindsets. For better or for worse, organizations who proceed in this manner are redefining themselves mostly according to their own perceptions, leaving their clients far behind.
There are certainly lots of models around, and they’re often the subject of too much discussion. Models are wonderful in theory, and they can serve as a great basis for reflection, but “one” model will never be “your” model. It may seem obvious to state that it’s essential to keep in mind the core motivations behind a transformation. But believe me when I say that in practice, when things are moving fast, it can be very wise to take a step back and return to the fundamentals in order to make the right decisions.
Staying the course with your organization’s central purpose means knowing why you exist, so you can determine how you can move forward. Whatever the transformation you’re leading or embarking on, make time to come back to this purpose. This will allow you to mobilize your employees, because it will remind them why they’re here, instead of somewhere else. And above all, it will allow you to determine how to leverage your unique and distinctive assets to make a genuine, positive difference in your clients’ lives.