From Mission To Purpose

How to articulate your purpose in five steps or less


You've got a mission. You've defined your values. But, you've seen the research: Purpose-driven companies outperform their peers on seven out of eight categories and return stock appreciation of 1681% to 118%. If you’re like the executives I work with, the thought of 'another retreat' to define your purpose makes your eyes water and may elicit the muttering of phrases you don't want children to hear. 'So I get it, purpose matters, now what?'

From mission to purpose with the five why exercise


In Lean (The Toyota Way), the Five Whys exercise was codified as a technique to help people find root cause, the real source of a problem. The essence? If you start with what you’re seeing and ask yourself 'why' five times (on average), you get to the root cause - the real reason for the problem. The technique, beautiful in its simplicity, is one I've used with remarkable success to speed up the process of purpose articulation for those who already have well-defined mission statements. Why? Most people define their mission in terms of what they do. If you ask yourself 'why' several times, you get to the heart of why you do it – your cause - and have the potential to inspire your stakeholders. Better yet, I find it only takes two to three 'why's when working from a well-crafted mission statement. Let's give it a try.

Imagine yourself in the boardroom.

State your mission: 'To empower CEOs to articulate, activate and actualize their purpose.'

Ask yourself 'who do we do that?' 'Because I believe purpose-driven companies outperform their competitors AND create a better world.'

Repeat a variation of that question, 'why does that matter?' Because I'd like to create a world my son and his kids would be inspired to live in, and purpose-driven companies can do that."

Repeat a variation of that question, 'why do that with business leaders?' 'Because I believe business is one of the dominant institutions in society - the one most likely to create change - and I've seen the impact articulating, activating and actualizing purpose can have for individuals and organizations. I’m excited to wake up every morning and work on that.'

Three 'Whys' and we've got what we need to move from purpose to mission

'To positively impact the next seven generations by empowering leaders to activate, articulate and actualize their Purpose.' It, as Simon Sinek would say, 'starts with our Why.' It is a shared journey that we (the organization) do with our clients, not for the clients. It is aspirational. It is inspiring. It is a never-ending pursuit. It creates an entirely different conversation with our Who, our customers.

If you’ve thought deeply and invested heavily in your mission, well done! You’re one step closer to articulating your purpose. Try the five Why exercise to move from What to Why and articulate your Purpose.

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