Decision Making For Dummies
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The purpose identifies the reason(s) you’re taking action. It answers the big “Why are you doing this?” and “Why do you exist?” questions. Knowing the purpose confirms priority and focus for both short-term results and longer term direction. Being clear about purpose is important for when you’re making both immediate decisions (“What are you trying to achieve by taking action?”) and decisions related to the company’s reason for existence.

Purpose at the decision-making level

At the level of decision-making, purpose points the way to the endpoint, the goal the decision is meant to achieve. With decisions made internally, purpose provides focus and keeps effort on track. The point is to know very clearly why you are taking action so that you can effectively communicate the purpose to your team and give a sense of priority.

A solid purpose statement provides some indication of the value — “to deliver high customer service so that the customer happily returns,” for example. A clear purpose statement offers these benefits:

  • It allows your employees to adapt and adjust to emerging conditions. When you’ve articulated the purpose of the decision, staff members have the freedom to react to unexpected events without needing permission. As a result, your company will be able to adjust to circumstances more quickly.

  • It clarifies how the decision serves the company, client, or customer. A clear purpose statement connects the desired endpoint to how it is accomplished.

  • It focuses new initiatives and helps teams that aren’t quite clear on what they’re supposed to do. Teams often form without knowing why or what they are to achieve. A clear purpose statement in this instance provides the needed commitment for teamwork.

    When you are working with teams, focus on identifying the “why” for the team’s work. Basically, you want to answer the question, “What can we achieve by working together?” Many team dysfunctions can be traced back to not having a good enough reason to work together.

Purpose at a higher level

At a higher level, purpose articulates what a company stands for. It inspires effort. Without a sense of purpose, people are very busy, yet not all can say why or know where they are going.

At a higher level, purpose is much more than, “The company exists to make money.” Purpose is about how the company serves society, the community, and the environment. Defining your purpose — your “why” — helps your staff and your customers (both current and potential) know what you stand for.

A company creates meaning when its stated purpose (as well as its stated mission, vision, and intention) corresponds with its decisions and actions. Companies that post their mission statement and espoused values and then fail to connect their decisions to the words lose credibility with their employees and their customers.

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Dawna Jones generates imaginative insights and applies 25 years experience in helping businesses and organizations make bold decisions. She co-designs the future of organizations, transforming them from "business-as-usual" to inclusive cultures of prosperity.

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