A cartoon of a Rube Goldberg invention that makes a simple task complex

For the last four weeks we have explored organizational Mission, Vision, Purpose, and Why It Exists. These are similar concepts. However, one is not the same as the other. So what? Why make it more complicated? This blog will attempt to answer these questions. Imagine your favorite mode of vehicular transportation. It is probably a complex machine. As you know, a complex machine is just a set of simple machines engineered to leverage the benefits of each other for a more effective and efficient means of getting from one state of being to another. To operate and maintain that machine at peak performance, both the operators and crew need to understand the similarities and differences of the simple machines with which they interface. They also need to understand how those simple machines interact with each other. 

True, you can ride a bike or drive a car without understanding how all those simple components interact with each other and still get where you’re going. You can even enjoy the ride. But, those who seek the peak performance of their vehicles dissect the details, know the nuances, and master the machine’s mechanisms without damaging the components in the process. 

Running an organization is like that. You can get by with a superficial understanding of how a business, nonprofit, or government agency operates. But until you develop a deeper understanding of what’s “under the hood”, it will operate inefficiently and less effectively than intended. The parts will wear each other out prematurely, too.

This is why it is important to clarify the differences between the uniquely nuanced components of organizational culture.

This month and last we glimpsed at just a few. Here they are again:

Values are ideas put into words that convey what we believe is most important about how we do our work and relationships together.

Mission is the reason we do that work together, in the present, for the sake of those our products and services benefit. It is what the organization is doing at the moment.

Vision is a clear, mental picture of a new and compelling iteration of that mission. It is where the organization is going. Many a vision is attained even after the current people are gone.

Purpose is really about finding and providing a sense of meaning for the people in the organization. People want their lives to mean something, even if their jobs are a means to meaning outside the organization. Authentic connection to that reality generates motivation.

Why it Exists is more fundamental than mission and more challenging to identify. However, once it is understood, it regularly provides a boost of motivational fuel that helps an organization pursue all the other factors.

Whatever its form and function, an organization is a complex set of simple components that, when deeply understood, intentionally engineered for alignment, and sufficiently lubricated by the healthy relationships between the people involved, will operate at a greater capacity than imagined.  If not understood, it gets downright complicated and frustrating. That’s just wrong.

If you’d like help more fully understanding how the simple components of your organization can operate closer to peak performance within the complexities in which you find yourself, contact TurningWest – Your Guide to a Healthy Culture and Human Work Systems.

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