How powerful is purpose?

How powerful is purpose?

What do we mean by purpose? And how can we benefit from it?

In recent years there have been many examples of people with strong purpose effecting change. Ones that come to mind immediately include the Scottish Referendum, Brexit, the MeToo movement and the Florida Parkland School students, lobbying for changes to gun laws in the US. Whether you agree with their purpose or not, it is impossible not to notice the results.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the most powerful current example is the single-minded campaigning of Greta Thunberg for climate change, who surely epitomises what a clear purpose can achieve. Her recent tweets show the focus on her cause.

Her purpose is clear, and it overrides every other consideration in her mind. It’s been effective enough to convince two governments to date, to declare a state of climate emergency. Not bad for a 16 year-old student.

Purpose is referenced in business all the time. It’s clear that many institutional investors are no longer satisfied with organizations having the sole purpose of a financial return to shareholders, especially at the expense of the environment. Your purpose also must be a force for good in society in some way, however small. Social media has created a powerful lobby and company’s intentions and actions are constantly being scrutinized, so apart from anything else, it makes economic sense to closely question the purpose of your organization.

At a recent conference we had the opportunity to listen to Haley Rushing from the The Purpose Institute – the acknowledged leaders in the field of corporate purpose. She shared the United Airlines case study, amongst many others, and why the purpose of giving people ‘the freedom to fly’ is so much more powerful than being a low-cost airline.

Real purpose has social impact at heart.

 

 

 

It also helps that the language is thoughtful and powerful – the phrase the late, lamented charismatic leader Herb Kelleher used was “democratize the skies”. Poetic purpose!

Whilst hoping that you may already have found some of this article interesting, we can hear you shouting “GREAT. WHAT’S IT GOT TO DO WITH ME??!!” Fair enough. We hear you.

Whilst it’s possible for anyone to influence the company’s greater purpose, it’s unlikely to be at the top of your to do list today. But whatever project, programme or activity you are undertaking, it really is worth starting with the purpose. Ask yourself two simple questions.

1. Is there a clear purpose to the work we are undertaking?

2. Is there a social benefit beyond the economic or organizational goal?

This doesn’t have to be a planet-saving Thunberg level benefit, but is it going to help people in some way? Does it go beyond economic benefit, and will it bear scrutiny if at a later point someone asks why money and time was being spent on it?

More often than not, the origin of projects and programmes are lost somewhere in the establishing of steering groups, streams of work and levels of governance. We have been charged with engaging hundreds of people in change programmes in the past and when we asked the simple question, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s the purpose?’, there really wasn’t a simple answer.

In one particularly bad example, we declined to continue working on a project, because the real answer to the question was ‘To paper over the cracks and make it look like we’re listening’. We’re not purpose experts, but like most humans, we can smell a rat.

After working with Haley, we were very taken with the idea of re-examining our purpose, as we have done consistently over the years . When undertaking your next project, or perhaps now you’re in the middle of it, consider these four things.

· Keep it simple. Don’t try to make the purpose cover everything
· Be specific and avoid woolly platitudes. E.g. “make your lives easier”
· Don’t say something it isn’t. You’ll get found out.
· Fully commit to the purpose and don’t compromise.

Purpose is not a one and done thing, but we are very clear about ours. It is to ‘bring content to life’.

We have a sub-set of having fun doing it, but we remain true to this in everything we do.

When purpose is right it’s powerful.

World leaders meeting with a 14 yr old is a pretty good proof point. You should be able to convince people at every level around you that you have a solid purpose and if you can’t, well then take another look.

Alternatively, call us, and we’ll take a look. 



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Translating the overwhelmingly technical into the wonderfully simple

Translating the overwhelmingly technical into the wonderfully simple

Translating the overwhelmingly technical into the wonderfully simple

When an organisation is introducing technical and complex changes, the temptation is to place all the relevant information in lengthy documents and make it available to everyone that may be affected.

The assumption being, that everyone will read it, interpret it and thus know what they need to know.  In most organisations, where the volume of information is vast, that is, at best, unlikely.  In addition, if the information has been written by technical experts, it may serve more to confuse than to enlighten.

Although the obligation of providing information has been fulfilled and thus can be ticked off the project plan, it often fails to enlighten anyone and can create frustration and confusion. There is another way.

Alana bought a new carpet-cleaning machine at the weekend. (She is an official grown up now!). She shared on Monday morning the excitement of unboxing it, which rapidly turned to amazement and then to confusion at just how many parts it seemed to have. Her mood shifted to despair as she realised how much needed to be done to assemble these items to produce a fully functioning bit of kit. Perhaps the carpets could wait a day or two?

Thankfully, the despair was short lived, because the very thoughtful carpet machine manufacturers had created a wonderful technicolour spread of just exactly what went where and the order in which it went.  As well as clear assembly instructions, there were visual diagrammatic steps for operation too. What attachment was for what surface, how much solution to mix and which brushes were specially for homes with pets. A potential technical minefield easily explained and the previously terrifying array of bits was swiftly transformed into a fully functioning domestic delight.  Result – a delighted Alana, some very clean carpets and a slightly disgruntled Murphy dog. 

Wouldn’t it be great if the same happened in business? Technical, complex and dry but necessary information conveyed in a way which people can quickly understand and apply.

Here is the thought process we go through when we are faced with the challenge of translating technically complex information into the understandably simple.

1. What one thing do we want people to know?

2. What do we want them to do afterwards?

3. How do we want them to feel?  

Then:

1. What is a metaphor, a phrase, an analogy or concept that conveys all this information?

2. What creative vehicle could we use to clearly demonstrate that concept?

3. What other information needs to be conveyed that can be weaved into this overarching idea.

 

This diagram illustrates some examples. These creative ‘hooks’ can then be used throughout the messaging to reinforce the key point. 

Having a strong hook isn’t going to be able to describe your complete IT network in 5 minutes but here are a few other techniques we use in order to make the technical more simple: 

1. Make it Visual    

Take a leaf out of the carpet cleaning machine manufacturer’s book- make it visual. Need to show the relationship between the head office and the factory floor? Show it. Depicting the environment in which people work makes it immediately relatable and recognisable.

2.    Don’t try and include every little thing.

You will run the risk of getting stuck in the weeds and never actually getting to the end of articulating what you need to. Extra discussion can address the more detailed data once you have delivered the basics.

3.    Make sure it is relevant

Sense check it with individuals from the business who live it day to day. They will soon be able to tell you if it lands with them at a human level or not.

4.    Include the benefits

This works well in process visuals – to be able to see the benefit of a certain process step really helps in getting buy-in from individuals. Click here for examples of process maps and other visual creations. 

5.    Have some fun!

Can you include in-jokes? No car parking? Temperamental printers or dodgy light switches? Feature a nod to these! The laughter of recognition is a great icebreaker.  

Here is a recent example of a before and after: 

Whilst we are not suggesting that the assembly of a carpet cleaning machine presents the same technical challenge as say, introducing a new ERP, we are ultimately seeking the same outcome. 

A communication vehicle that can simply explain process and procedure and convey the required complex technical information in a simple and effective way.  Visuals really are the key.    

By the way, should anyone want their carpets cleaning …Alana recommends VAX.  If it’s strong simple visuals you are after, then please feel free to get in touch!



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Do we know where we are going?! Bringing your organisations’ vision to life

Do we know where we are going?! Bringing your organisations’ vision to life

The importance of bringing Organisational Vision or Strategy to life, and our top tips.

Everyone wants to know where they are going and how they are going to get there, unless of course you are one of those carefree travellers who puts a pin in a map at random and leaves the house with nothing but a backpack, a passport, a change of pants and a toothbrush… wow, that was a great conference…no, but seriously, we are talking about Organisational Vision and Strategy.

No, no, please don’t hit delete, we know it may sound a little corporate and dare we say uninteresting but isn’t that just exactly why we need to bring it to life in a more interesting way?

In our experience, the clearer an organisations’ plan is to see, understand and communicate, the easier it is for everyone to get behind it and the more likely you are to actually stand a chance of getting there.

If your people believe in what you are all doing and where you are all going, they are more likely to stick around and give their best in order to help achieve it. And that feels good for everyone!
Even better, if you can involve people, and truly understand the business challenges faced at all levels, then tangible, actionable, creative solutions can be developed.

This level of involvement gives individuals the chance to have their say and feel they are contributing, and are not just another number on a page. It will also ensure that your future vision is relevant and applicable to everyone.
So how on earth do you do this, especially if you have numerous global locations? We have a step by step process that we adopt and here are some top tips from some of our previous experiences…

1. Acknowledge the truth

You can’t make a clear path for where you want to go if you don’t know where you are. Get out into the business – talk to people, spend time doing focus groups, doing interviews etc- the more people and levels you speak to the better. If you can offer anonymity, you are more likely to get a truer picture of what is going on across the business.

We’re happy to talk to anyone, by the way.

2. Create the future

You may already have a stated vision, a mission statement, or a purpose statement. Don’t let it just be words on a page but encourage people to explore how it actually looks and feels.

Involve as many different voices as you can and ask them what they believe the future can be – an Leadership Team vision is not going to be the same for Mel who works in the plant.

3. Replay your findings

If you don’t tell people what you have done with their inputs, they will see this as an exercise and won’t believe you. We always use powerful visuals, videos or animations to replay these findings.

4. Involve everyone in the ‘how ’

This is undoubtedly the trickiest part, the biggest risk of people going off at a tangent or getting bogged down in the data and smaller intricacies of running a business. Or worse, just being generic and not specific enough.

Design events and communications in such a way that involve people, will allow localised teams to build on the existing state, add their relevance to the future vision, keep on track with their discussions, have an interactive experience and generate outcomes of tangible steps and actions that they can implement.

5. Share it!

Creating a rich picture is one way to show the collective vision and strategy. Tell your story to everyone!

Keep communicating and show evidence of things that have already happened as a result of this approach that is making a difference.

6. Don’t let it be a gimmick

Keep it front and centre.

If it is a picture, have it on display in offices. Keep dialogue going in meetings, townhalls etc…you name it.

Hold yourself accountable to it. If needs be, revisit it 6 months down the line for a refresher session; have you done what you said you would do? If not, then look at how can you amend that to ensure you are back on track.

An Example..

If you really want to be clear on where you’re heading and how to get people to all pull in the same direction then, in our experience, nobody has done this better than our friend Ben Hunt-Davies and his concept of Will It Make the Boat Go Faster. The ultimate literal ‘all pulling in the same direction‘ which ended in him and his colleagues achieving their lofty ambition.
Your ambition might not be an Olympic Title but if you and your people are losing direction and feeling overwhelmed then a clear view of where you’re going is going to help.

If you want a step-by-step guide about how to share your organisational strategy or vision, find a copy here 

Need your vision bringing to life?

We are experts in helping organisations to breathe life into their vision, values or strategies. Bringing our creative expertise to make corporate narratives engaging, compelling and memorable. 



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Practical ways to engage employees in your corporate narrative

Practical ways to engage employees in your corporate narrative

We know that in a large firm there, is often the need to communicate your vision or narrative in a way that employees can understand and connect with.  

We also know, after many years of working with organisations to do that, how difficult it is to not only physically reach people, but to translate the corporate, boardroom-suitable content into something that the wide and varied group, teams and even individuals will be able to get behind.  

This isn’t something that is straight forward or that, in our opinion, benefits from a “one-size-fits-all” solution or methodology; however, there are a few key principles that we have seen make a significant difference in a wide range of different organisations, in different sectors, with different cultures.  

Visuals eat words for breakfast 

Not only are visuals quicker for people to process, and so are more effective in communication channels, they leave a visual impression which reduces the amount people need to interpret for themselves. This can provide a common reference point for people, to be constantly reinforced in ongoing communications…in a way that words can’t be.  

Try this example: A group wanted to depict their desire to build an organisation where people felt that they could take action. Where risks and making decisions were rewarded rather than punished. Where every person in the organisation was important, valued for their contribution and the impact they made to the overall success of the company. They didn’t want to just tell people this, they wanted they wanted people to “feel” it.  

All of this was captured in this single image…

Use of metaphor 

Corporate strategies and narratives are, by their nature, complex beasts. They need to explain a whole lot of information to a wide range of stakeholders, all whilst inspiring action and providing clarity and confidence. Phew! No wonder bland, corporate, all-sound-the-same strategies are rolled out all the time.  

Creating and building a strong metaphor or analogy can help crystallise the end vision into a common reference point, which can get ‘under the skin’ of the necessary words that surround it.  

 

Tell a story 

People have grown up with stories; people are used to hearing them; stories can transcend cultural and demographic divides. They can also create an emotional connection that little else can. This makes them perfect for translating and creating engagement in organisations.  

Personal stories are particularly powerful. They can help set a context and meaning to why the CEO is passionate about delivering exceptional customer service, for example, or why a fundamental business model change is so critical to deliver. A well-crafted story can convey that passion, that meaning and that desired end state in a way that will remain in people’s minds; they will be able to mentally refer back to it in the weeks, months and even years to come. 

Remember the Nordstrom Customer Service story? Where a sales assistant provided a refund to a customer, knowing that Nordstrom have never stocked the item being returned? Whether it is true or not is irrelevant. If you worked for Nordstrom, you would be in no doubt as to how you were expected to treat customers. Furthermore, that story has been used in business schools and training courses around the world to illustrate what good customer service looks like.  

 

Have different versions for different groups

One key mistake we see organisations make is the assumption that the top-down version of the strategy needs to be the one single version of the truth. This assumption falls into the “one-size-fits-all” way of thinking- and one size rarely fits all.  

Using the central version as a point of reference is correct, but different groups will require different “translations” if they are to get behind it. Sometimes this might be obvious, i.e. the focus of the narrative for the Operations division is likely to focus on the engineering changes or new product development- but sometimes it might be less obvious. One area might have a cultural challenge around a lack of decision-making, which may be a key area to focus in on to uncover what is driving that culture.  

There is no magic answer for this, but taking time to get out and talk to the people impacted (job shadow them if at all possible) will give you some significant clues as to what will be the right triggers for that particular group.  

 

Don’t bury the lede (which may not be what the board room thinks it is) 

The saying “don’t bury the lede” (now most commonly written as “lead”) is common in journalism and refers to the practice of ensuring that the journalist gets to the point that its readers would be most interested in which may not be the initial trigger of the story. A brilliant, and commonly cited example is from Nora Ephron: 

My high school journalism teacher, whose name is Charles O. Simms, is teaching us to write a lead–the first sentence or paragraph of a newspaper story. He writes the words “Who What Where When Why and How” on the blackboard. Then he dictates a set of facts to us that goes something like this: “Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the faculty of the high school will travel to Sacramento on Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Speaking there will be anthropologist Margaret Mead and Robert Maynard Hutchins, the present of the University of Chicago.” We all sit at our typewriters and write a lead, most of us inverting the set of facts so that they read something like this, “Anthropologist Margaret Mead and University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins will address the faculty Thursday in Sacramento at a colloquium on new teaching methods, the principal of the high school Kenneth L. Peters announced today.” We turn in our leads. We’re very proud. Mr. Simms looks at what we’ve done and then tosses everything into the garbage. He says: “The lead to the story is ‘There will be no school Thursday.’” 

 

Strategies and narratives are no different. The board may thing that strong shareholder value is the key message. The directors may think that 15% year-on-year growth is the key message. The factory manager thinks that the lease on his factory has been renewed for 5 years is the key message. The rest is interesting, but he won’t hear it until his “lead” has been addressed. Consider what the real lead is for the people you are talking to, and don’t be afraid to play down, or push the board level ‘leads’ towards the bottom. It’s still important, but don’t bury the key point with analyst or city facing messages.  

 

Translating strategies or narratives in a way which will build awareness, understanding and ultimately, action, is no easy task. Doing it well requires a high degree of human connection and understanding, an insight into company culture on the ground, plus a great degree of creativity and ‘jargon translation’.  

At Purple Monster, we won’t tell you we have the perfect model on the shelf that we can apply to your particular situation, but we do have the skills and experience highlighted above in bucket loads. If you think we could help you breathe some life into your strategy, then get in touch. 

If you want to find out about the process we might employ to work through some of these issues alongside you, then download our ‘Strategic Narrative Infographic Novel’ which explains (in visual form, of course!) the process we might take with you and what you can expect from it.  



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Step-by-Step Guide to rolling out new strategies, visions or narratives

Step-by-Step Guide to rolling out new strategies, visions or narratives

A common challenge we help many companies resolve usually starts off something like: 

 “we’ve got this new [strategy/narrative/vision/plan/set of values*]and we need to find a way to really help people to get behind it”. *delete as appropriate

We’ve always been in engagement in some form or another (sometimes, we didn’t know that at the time!) but for us here at Purple Monster, it’s always been about involving people in something, and this particular challenge is no different.  

People now know and get that engagement is important. They know that for people to really commit to something, they have to get it into their bones, and that might be see and hear what it means, for some, know how it feels, for a different group, and just tell me what it is, for others.  

But, whichever learning style you may have and whichever personal drivers might motivate you, one thing is for sure: to really commit to a new way of doing or following anything requires a shift. Or a change. Oh no. We got there. This is about change. Of course it is. So, how do we do something different in ensuring that the change is communicated well by those advocating it and understood well by those involved in it? 

Following this six-step process will help. In this case we are imagining a new vision, but it might very well be new [strategy/narrative/vision/plan/set of values] …

We hope it helps.

1. Articulating 

The exec has created a new vision. It is compelling, exciting and future-thinking, but it is also corporate, boardroom-focused and high-level. How can the message be translated and rolled out to the wider organisation?  

 

2. Designing 

Get under the skin of the corporate speak. Work with the exec or leadership to understand: 

  • What will it mean for individual business units or functions? 
  • How will the strategy play with this new vision? 
  • What are the current implementation plans? 
  • Where will your values fit in? 
  • What will this new vision mean for peoples’ behaviours? 
  • Does this affect your current ways of working or cultural underpinning? 

The best way to pull all of this together is by using visual tools and considering metaphors to start the translation process. Ensure you start the senior managers’ engagement process at this early stage; this will pay dividends when you come to roll it out.  

 

3. Refining 

The key to successful implementation isn’t in the content alone, it is in ‘how’ it is delivered. Use well-established techniques such as storytelling and building a human connection, to help leaders shape the narrative and how it is best communicated. Start to build personal connection and ownership of the vision and what it is to achieve. If these skills are not well developed, then now is the time to seek help in developing them.  

 

4. Engaging 

Design the mechanism by which it will be rolled out to the wider team. Many, many options exist, such as workshop-in-a-box, animations, rich pictures or video, but whichever methodology you choose, consider how you are building engagement and personal ownership. If you need tips on how to do this, then look at this article which offers practical ways to share your strategic vision.

 

5. Sharing 

Practise the roll-out. Don’t just assume that the leaders will be able to roll it out effectively. Hold facilitated run-through sessions, ensuring that the context is explained consistently, passionately and with a high degree of human connection and ownership. By that time, the leaders should be well-versed in the messages and story to share at the cascade workshops.  

 

6. Continuing 

The hard work has only just begun. As well as the initial ‘hit’, how are you going to keep it going? What other mechanisms, supporting materials and development opportunities can you develop to continually reinforce the messages? Consider ensuring communications use consistent images from the central visual. Link back initiatives, changes and everyday behaviours to this central vision. Don’t be afraid to update the visual, maybe to show what has been completed or how it has changed in response to feedback.  

We have run this process many times for clients all over the world with impactful results.

If you are interested in how we can help you translate your [strategy/narrative/vision/plan/set of values] then get in touch here 



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