The Great Workplace 2.0: The Mission Statement Is Dead — Long Live Purpose
By Admin

June 9, 2010

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“We stand to learn more from our explorations into the future we desire, than from the past that continues only in ways that we choose to let it continue. Imagination is in fact a larger learning space than past experience. The only way to romanticize the power of experience is to fail to engage our imaginations in the possibilities that call to us in quiet moments.” JACK RICHUITTO, Author, Consultant and Advisor.

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Purpose is sustainable. When a Mission is accomplished it becomes an archived entry.
In The Great Workplace 2.0 “Mission Statements” are being quietly and purposefully replaced with “Statements of Purpose”. The legacy “Mission Statement” focused on the goals of the organization, for the organization itself. The customer was mentioned, in passing, usually only as a tool for the organization’s measured success.

Purpose is the organization’s reason for being in business.

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An organization’s Purpose is Extrinsic, not Intrinsic like “Mission Statements” of the past. An organization’s Purpose focuses attention on someone or something other than itself while engaging in its own intelligent self interest. “Intelligent self interest” is defined as intrinsic motivation, purpose or goals whose resulting actions are directed in great part by sensitivity to their affects on others and are adjusted accordingly (From the book: “Nine Principles For Inspired Action” Finklestein/Schepens). In the book, the chapter on “Intelligent Self Interest” is introduced by an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time, and still maintain the ability to function”. Thus the idea of Intelligent Self Interest and Corporate or Personal goals being able to not only coexist, but to have one lend guidance to the other. The Great Workplace 2.0 is sensitive, not communist.

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An organization’s Purpose answers the questions: “For what are we competing?” and “What is our ultimate reason for being here?” And is never adequately answered by short-term profits or stockholder equity. In that way, it is a paradox. An organization can achieve its numeric goals, in many ways, by not focusing their entire attentions to them.

Stockholder equity and organization profitability should be consequences of leadership, purpose and collaboration, not the only goals.

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That is NOT to say an organization should exclude monetary or “numbers” goals. The organization needs to sustain. But goals should never be seen as purely “the numbers” as there are more important factors to track, as we will see.

Purpose is sustainable. When a Mission is accomplished it becomes an archived entry.

Today, people are driven more by a purpose than is the typical company in which they participate.

People want their lives, their work and their results to mean something. Something more that helping a company: “To become the largest supplier of machine fasteners in the upper Midwest”.  Good goal. The CEO may love it, shareholders will anxiously await the release of “the numbers”. “Employees” will yawn or respond with a predetermined and measured level of enthusiasm.

To the “employee”, that mission is as close to being part of their daily life as catching a world-series home run ball at Progressive Field in Cleveland Ohio.

It is no longer adequate for most individuals to give their time, effort and attention to a thinly veiled “Mission Statement” that hides the ultimate pursuit of intrinsic corporate goals (quarterly earnings reports or stock prices). The typical participant sees right through that and goes to work elsewhere or begins to take advantage of the organization’s generosity and focuses on his or her own goals. While the deflecting organization is concentrating of their pursuit of goals simply to benefit the company, the average participant is figuring out ways to milk the system, learn the jargon of “Mission Statements” to get by, and learn the backdoor paths to “retirement on the job”. At the least, an organization that lacks a true Purpose that is lived and supported by management, will have fewer Participants working passionately toward any objective…except their own.

Perhaps the importance of “Purpose” in any business today is as a reaction to those organizations (and people) that selfishly led the WORLD economy down the path to near oblivion in 2008-2009 (and beyond). Perhaps it is a throwback to the Woodstock era when values were born from Chaos and experimentation with new Ethos. Perhaps it is simply a change that needed to be made for our survival.

A case is being made that the return of “Purpose” to any business and to the work to be done in moving a business forward comes from current world-directed efforts toward a more sustainable lifestyle on our planet. The “Green” initiative asks many “Why” questions and relies upon the ethics of individuals, organizations and even countries/ governments to re-focus on the REASONS for their actions or inactions. It focuses on a “we’re all in the same boat” perspective (inclusive open source) and instead of supporting a continuing Matrix-like non-reality, constructs a new reality that is geared toward “Purpose” (survival?) not legacy (what got us here in the first place).

There is a marked movement to an ethos based upon common sense and the guiding perspective that in fact, we are all “in this together”. This realization alone has helped us change from a corporate “Us versus Them” mentality that directs insiders against outsiders or insiders versus insiders into using the idea of “Participants” to describe ALL people and entities that touch the organization.

If your first reaction to that statement is “my purpose is to make money”, then join the club. For business owners, managers, “employees” on incentives and shareholders, it is the typical first reaction…at least at Legacy organizations or those organizations that are only looking for this quarter’s earnings report.

Purpose however is different than mission or goals. And purpose is substantially more critical to the success of the organization. The Great Workplace of today has discovered its power and discovered its place at the core of a profitable organization.

The Participants in The Great Workplace want their work efforts to have a Purpose beyond simple material gain, especially when that material gain is for unseen, passive recipients (Shareholders as an example). Working toward a concept or purpose larger or greater than our own self is a touch with immortality. Those things we do only for ourselves stay within us and perish or dwindle when we do.

“Purpose” touches a higher conceptual level than any mission an organization may have. It is more meaningful than any individual and the organization itself. It is focused on the customer, or perhaps on the customer’s customer.

Purpose is bigger than VALUE, as value is a consequence of the purpose being brought to the customer and how the customer perceives or uses the results of your purpose.

The conceptualization of, then the implementation of Purpose is at the core of ALL Great Workplaces.

Having Purpose (singular or plural) shared by all Participants with their organization fortifies effectiveness and in turn supports the ability to be more than simply competitive. It energizes at a grass roots level. It builds an organization from the ground up. It builds a Community with a shared vision, a shared purpose and a shared Trust.

Leaders of today realize that the competitiveness of their product or service is a consequence of the organization’s purpose and leadership. Rarely does the product or service itself create Leadership or Purpose.

The Great Workplace 2.0 recognizes that Purpose through an Immersive Culture is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of Touch. Touch is leadership that has created the ability for all participants to see, feel, know and implement the organization’s real and stated Purpose.

True Purpose resonates. It has a richness of significance. It has the ability to evoke a shared emotion and belief.

People, working together, regardless of geography or “status”, get behind a direction that becomes profitable for everyone involved. People recognize that a group or community with a Trusted Purpose can move the mountains individuals or insulated “leaders” cannot.

An organization’s Purpose will spark an individual’s need for a deeper understanding of himself or herself. It will direct a person to Aspire to something greater. In doing so, people grow. When people grow, organizations receive the summary benefits.

The concept of Purpose within an organization demands that Participants are learning. Learning energizes participants. And those are the people who can affect the direction of an organization.

As people grow, they realize that ideas around them or ideas they believe have been born inside them may have a place in concepts greater than their perception of that day’s reality. Innovation happens.

When people find others with the same or similar Purpose, inside or outside the organization, strong networks are created. Networks with Purpose create new ideas, solve old problems, seize new opportunities and bring those ideas to bear on the organization that has allowed them that recognition. Collaboration is born.

Purpose flows along with the Community it creates. Closed organizations become static and inbred. Positive Community is born from open Collaboration, Collaboration is born from Trust, Trust is born from Shared Purpose. Value is created from Community.

“Purpose” is not a substitute for Mission or Goals.

A “Statement of Purpose” is not a substitute for “Mission Statement”.

Purpose has NO end game. Missions and Goals do.

Purpose will always be sought. When it seems Purpose has been attained, the realization will come that to hesitate, lose your grip or engine for even for one moment the Purpose will then be something to be sought after. Again.

The Customer moves the Purpose. It is theirs to move. They move your Purpose so it aligns with their own. The customer is in charge. The customer can be Internal or External to the organization. In turn, their Purpose can be Intrinsic or Extrinsic. When their Purpose is Extrinsic, you need to know.

As Purpose has no end game, and is moved by its own object, it evolves into the realization of continual improvement.

An Ethos grows around Purpose and is not part of a goals strategy. Purpose can be measured, but as its object of focus moves slightly or massively, Purpose finds a new life and possibly a new beginning.

The Great Workplace 2.0 understands the difference between Purpose and Mission and chooses the deeper resonance of Purpose for its strength. Purpose can then be the foundation to a single Mission or an Intrinsic Corporate Mission. When a true Purpose is the foundation for a Mission, it changes the direction and importance of that Mission. It ties Activity and Strategy to Purpose, and becomes sustainable.

Purpose is the energy and the passion behind an organization or individual’s pursuit of achievements. It is steps above a goal and the hand behind innovation. It is at the core of focus, it is the incubator of dreams.

More people are becoming disillusioned with the sole pursuit of material gain (especially on the part of the Organization) as an Ethos.

Purpose is pride and purpose must integrate into their lives. As the world is becoming a smaller and more familiar place, more people want to be known as a Good Person with proven principles and less as a consumer of fleeting resources.

Purpose can answer and fulfill the business question/ dilemma: “What should I do now?”

In many ways it can be the differentiator of one organization from another in the marketplace, and as an organization builds a brand that reflects their purpose, it can be a singular reason a customer will choose one firm over another.

Purpose is focused on the customer, not on the organization. There can be little learning or growing when one focuses solely on oneself.

An organization’s purpose is a major reason top talent will choose to be a Participant at one organization over another.

Top talent can work anywhere their skills are needed. But the definition of “Top Talent” is changing with the changes of the workplace.

Top talent can choose where, how and why to work with an organization that has a purpose where they can participate at a higher level than before, and where their lives can take on new meanings.

Top talent is now defined as those people who will focus on YOUR purpose, not theirs, first. They know that focusing on the organization’s purpose will lead to achieving their goals.

In the old model, Top Talent was defined more by credentials and skills than Intent and Collaborative attitude.

In a purpose-driven organization, the talent who are focused on their own goals first will be seen as counter-productive and socially out of sync with the community. The word “Selfish” will be used to describe their attitude regardless of their skills.

The concept of “Stakeholders” should be placed in the legacy archives. “Stakeholders” has a negative and passive inference. It seems a similar concept to the Pioneers “Staking” claim to land that was not theirs in the first place. Driving a stake in something may sound active, but it is simply laying false claim, with no need to EARN by active Participation.

This rebirth of values and purposes for the business organization

The legacy that current best-in-class business trends are running from may be exactly that of the “Mission Statements” of the past: Statements that sound like purposes, but are inevitably Intrinsic (for oneself) versus Extrinsic (from others).

Examples of non-sensible or thin “Mission Statements”:

“The New Ventures Mission is to scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings.”

“Yahoo! powers and delights our communities of users, advertisers, and publishers – all of us united in creating indispensable experiences, and fueled by trust.”

“Our Mission: Collaborating with partners of government, community-based organizations, communities and the private sector, we provide a community engagement and dialogue clearinghouse”

▪     To provide capacity training and resources to build individual and collective skills and knowledge in small and large-scale engagement and dialogue processes

▪     To facilitate customized community engagement and dialogue design and facilitation

▪     To convene community engagement and dialogue processes

▪     To collect and publish information and best practices of community engagement planning, strategic engagement, organizational renewal and public policy development.

Some quotes behind “Purpose”:

Earl Nightingale

We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the purpose we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.

John Maxwell

A difficult time can be more readily endured if we retain the conviction that our existence holds a purpose – a cause to pursue, a person to love, a goal to achieve.

Napoleon Hill

The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.

Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

What mankind wants is not talent; it is purpose.

Bud Coggins

When your true purpose is to help others succeed, you succeed.

Hildebrand Kennet

Strong lives are motivated by dynamic purposes.

Washington Irving

Great minds have purposes, little minds have wishes.

Helen Keller

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.

W. Clement Stone

The concept of Purpose has taken a foothold in organizations that are following in their own footsteps. These are the organizations of the future and those who will stand out as The Great Workplaces of tomorrow.

A single example of a statement of purpose: “To positively affect our clients’ profitability by increasing their workforce productivity”. ALL about the client, not about the vendor.

Respectfully submitted, Robert Schepens CPC


  1. Fascinating shift in paradigm. “For whoever would save his corporate earnings will lose them; and whoever loses his corporate earnings for purpose sake will save them.”

  2. Everything on earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, every person a purpose. ~ Morning Dove Salish