The Organizational Culture – Understanding the purpose of organization

Credit: Are You Working For A Purpose-Driven Organisation? – – Amanda Chua

The Purpose of an organization is the fundamental reason why the organization exists.

The Purpose of an organization is not the answer to the question “What do you do?” This typically focuses on products, services and customers. To clarify, it should answer the question “Why is the work you do important?”

Employees should find the Purpose inspirational and motivational. To sum up, it is the cause that defines their contribution to society through work. Businesses exist to make a profit. But they also exist to make a difference. Through work, individuals can make a difference. They can be part of a meaningful legacy.


  • Is a contribution to society
    • Not a product or service
  • Answers the question: Why is this work important?
  • Is inspirational and motivational
  • Uses powerful words
  • Is brief in length
    • So employees will remember it
  • Is broad in scope
    • To allow for opportunities and change.[1]

In its simplest form, purpose is the organization’s reason for being.It is a combination of vision, mission, and values. In order to define the purpose, three questions need to be answered –

  • What is our vision? – This is an inspirational question, The purpose emerges from the vision.
  • What is our mission? – The mission is the what of an organization
  • What are our values? Neither vision or mission mean much if they are not reinforced by strong values. Values shape the culture

Defining purpose, if one does not already exist, is an exercise in leadership. It is a means by which an organization comes to grips with how it sees itself.

True purpose does not exist in a vacuum. It must be put to good use.[2]

The purpose needs to be defined at personal, workplace role and organizational level. The balanced fruition of these three critical areas can help create a sweat spot, the benefits of which are felt by employees, teams, the organization, customers, and perhaps most importantly, society too. [3]

When organizations embrace purpose, it’s often because a crisis forces leader to challenge their assumptions about motivation and performance and to experiment with new approaches. The framework suggested by the following eight essential steps should help to overcome the largest barrier to embracing purpose—the cynical “transactional” view of employee motivation

Credit: The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counter-Intuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven OrganizationRobert E. Quinn, Anjan V. Thakor

The purpose is not just a lofty ideal; it has practical implications for organization’s financial health and competitiveness. People who find meaning in their work don’t hoard their energy and dedication. They give them freely, defying conventional economic assumptions about self-interest. They grow rather than stagnate. They do more—and they do it better.

By tapping into that power, you can transform an entire organization.[4]

If the organization’s purpose impacts the WHY, HOW and WHAT you do, its culture is THE way of activating and authentically living it. Not knowing the purpose, or knowing it half-baked, can probably help skate … for a while. But rest assured, eventually the competition will soar past you because they will be more in tune where demographic, customer and market forces are moving.[5]

Here are some interesting video talks on this subject:

Dr. Doug Lepisto, assistant professor of Management at Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business, shares his insights on the organizational effects of a higher purpose from his 21-month ethnographic study at a global athletic footwear and apparel company.

Business is about purpose: R. Edward Freeman at TEDxCharlottesville 2013 explains that purpose of business is to create value rather than to maximize profit

The role of “Purpose” in transforming business | Cheryl Grise | TEDxOxbridge  – Cheryl speaks about purpose being at the heart of a successful organisation’s existence in a connected, fast paced and complex world.

Purpose in Business: Measuring What Matters: Jill Bamburg at TEDxBGI  – Jill Bamburg talks about how to measure purpose in the context of business.

[1] What is an organization’s Purpose? – Shela Margolis

[2] Give Your Organization a Reason to Believe in Itself – John Baldoni

[3] The Purpose Effect – Dan Pontefract

[4] Creating a Purpose-Driven OrganizationRobert E. Quinn, Anjan V. Thakor

[5] Why Your Organization’s Purpose is Important to Your Culture – Rich Berens