Why shared purpose is essential for being effective

“Why can’t you just do testing according to our software development policies?” the client project manager asked, looking vexed.

A mum's dismay by Church Mission Society https://www.flickr.com/photos/mission/291531073/

Lack of shared purpose can result in de-motivation.

Our jaws dropped. Mark, the testing expert in our team, had just introduced the new automatic testing workflow that we had developed. With our new workflow we could run all our acceptance tests automatically in a couple of hours. Instead of having to use a whole work week to run them manually.

In the end the decision boiled down to what was possible and what was not according to the policies. We did not get the permission to use our automated testing workflow. That caused massive de-motivation in the whole team.

What caused the dysfunction in the story I described above was the absence of a common goal for us and the customer project manager. Without that common goal or a shared purpose we ended up arguing about opinions. If we had had a shared purpose, we could have chosen the best option together by comparing which choice would have gotten as closest to our goal.

The lack of a goal or a shared purpose such as described above is a common dysfunction in knowledge work. Without knowing why she should do the things she has been made responsible of, the knowledge worker cannot utilize her expertise to try to achieve the goal in the most effective way.

Turning and turning in the widening eye by Eneas de Troya https://www.flickr.com/photos/eneas/3247053188

With shared purpose aligning the direction we can embrace change.

If I can answer the question why myself, I can be responsible of choosing the most effective modes of action. If we know our shared purpose for our action, we can negotiate effectively between options for action.

Without having a shared purpose, we are left guessing and fumbling in the dark. In traditional organizations that often means adhering to existing processes and policies and not having the tools necessary to question or improve them. If the shared purpose exists as a guiding principle everyone can start pitching in to improvement initiatives to improve the current ways of working towards better serving the purpose.

That is why negotiating and communicating goals and shared purpose is never a bad investment in an organization.

We are right now building a solution to help organizations negotiate and communicate their goals and shared purpose. Please contact us or leave a comment below if you are interested to hear more.

Antti Kirjavainen is an experienced coach and a linchpin. Antti is full of energy and has many interests – he is a knowledge work management thinker, product development coach, a Licensed Management 3.0 facilitator well as an active member of Agile Finland Ry, Agile4HR Finland and Agile Lean Europe network.

comments powered by Disqus