small change: your organisation’s purpose & you

small change
Ciarán Fenton
How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow
That’s the working title of a book I’m writing, initially as a series of short blogs.

Blog 2 small change: your career is a unique business

Blog 3 small change: your soft balance sheet

Blog 4 small change: your D Liability

Blog 5 small change: your timeline

Blog 6 small change: your formative years

Blog 7 small change: your A asset

Blog 8 small change: your career equity

Blog 9 small change: your curriculum vitae

Blog 10 small change: your emotional intelligence

Blog 11 small change: your reputation

Blog 12 small change: you, three years from now

Blog 13 small change: your purpose, strategy & behaviour (PSB)

Blog 14 small change: your soft p&l

Blog 15 small change: your 7 career options

Blog 16 small change: your relationship grid

Blog 17 small change: you are not a human capital asset

Blog 18 small change: your 7-step job search plan

Blog 19 small change: your 3-step interview plan (1)

Blog 20 small change: your 3-step interview plan (2)

Blog 21 small change: your 3-step interview plan (3)

Blog 22 small change: your job search funnel

Blog 23 small change: your reactive job search

Blog 24 small change: your proactive job search

Blog 25 small change: your first 100 days

Blog 26 small change: your operating board

Blog 27 small change: your main board

Blog 28 small change: your CEO, or you

Blog 29 small change: your CFO, or you

Blog 30 small change: your non-executive chair, or you

Blog 31 small change: your NEDs, or you

Blog 32 small change: your GC or you

Blog 33 small change: your COO, or you

Blog 34 small change: your CMO, or you

Blog 35 small change: your CTO, or you

Blog 36 small change: your HRD, or you

Blog 37 small change: your organisation’s purpose & you

small change

Seven principles

Principle 4

A shared Organisation PSB

  • shared purpose,
  • strategy
  • and behaviour in your organisation
  • is key to its success

Blog 37 small change: your organisation’s purpose & you

your orgs purpose & you

Your organisation’s purpose is about why it does what it does.

Its purpose matters to you because your purpose and its purpose are interdependent because, whether you like it or not, you depend on each other.

And since your organisation is merely a joint venture of career micro-businesses just like yours, its purpose is a function of the strongest individuals in it as set out in Blogs 28-36 above.

If you want to test this hypothesis just observe how the purpose of your organisation changes when its CEO is replaced.

In recent years the word purpose has become ubiquitous because the fundamentals of capitalism are under scrutiny by society and the traditional purpose of business is being challenged. But its ubiquity has led to some dilution in its meaning.

The word purpose is a noun meaning, according to the dictionary, “why you do something or why something exists”.

It’s not a proper noun i.e. it is not written with a capital letter. So you and your organisation can use the word any way you like:

  • our purpose is to maximise returns to shareholders
  • our purpose is to be the best no-frills airline in the world
  • our purpose is to make widgets profitably and benefit society

The problem with all fads in business is that language is the first casualty. Management-speak is designed to distance us from the painful truths within the concepts we use.

So instead of taking the time to say “our purpose goes beyond making money – we also care about the impact we are having on society” the new management-speak demands that we use the term “purpose-led (or driven)” – neither to be found in the dictionary – as if the word purpose has, and always has had only one meaning. This is tosh.

Unhelpfully and lazily the press has picked up this bad habit. For example:

Purpose-Driven Companies Evolve Faster Than Others (Forbes, Sep 21, 2018)


This is not a matter of semantics. Long after the term purpose-led fades, as surely it will – as did “down-sizing” and its partner “right-sizing” – the purpose of the business purpose movement will remain as important as ever and the work it is doing will continue delivering great service to society and to business.

But its hijacking of the word is not helping its cause because it tries to simplify and own a deeply personal and subjective concept. That’s the danger.

Purpose is personal. Not generic.

Does your organisation have a shared purpose? By shared I mean a statement that everyone agrees?

Often when I work with operating boards and ask them what is the purpose of their organisation they say  “to make money for our shareholders”.

I say to them that making money is like breathing. It’s a given. You can’t be in business unless you make money and you can lose money forever but run out of cash only once.

And people who are not shareholders and even some who are, don’t jump out of bed in the morning to make money for shareholders. They yearn for a personal purpose echoed by the purpose of the organisation for which they work.

What’s your purpose? How is your organisation helping you achieve it? How are you helping your organisation frame its purpose?

Purpose matters.


Ciarán Fenton 









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