Often when we work with an organization, we conduct a data-gathering and assessment process we call the Organizational Effectiveness Assessment™ to further understand dynamics within the organization and dig deeper to discover what is really going on. In interviewing employees or other stakeholders, one of our favorite questions to ask is: “In your own words, what is the mission or purpose of your organization/department/team? Why do you exist?”
The intention of this question is to test for consistency and agreement among the people we interview to be sure that they are all working toward the same main goal. It gives us a glimpse into the level of alignment, understanding, and uniformity within the team or organization. Unfortunately we often find that the answers show very differing views of the purpose of the group’s work and its core mission.
“So what?” you may be asking. “Why is that important?” If people working together have different understandings or beliefs about what their group was created to do, it is usually an indication of potential problems for a team, often revealing the source of existing symptoms of dysfunction or challenge within a team. For example, if half of the people in your organization believe that the purpose of the organization is to provide medical services to the greatest number of patients possible and the other half believe that the core mission is really to develop state-of-the-art medical technology, then the way in which they approach their work, the goals they set for themselves, and the priorities they determine for their individual work could be not only different but at odds with each other.
As Noel Tichy, Ram Charan and their colleagues described in their GRPI model of high-performing teams, a clear and uniform understanding of a team’s core mission and purpose sets the stage for a well-aligned, high-functioning team capable of developing goals and achieving results that fully support that mission. Without this understanding your organization can face conflicting goals, departmental silos, competition for resources, and overall frustration as your employees struggle to understand how their work fits into the bigger picture.
So, ask yourself the question: “How well do my team members understand the purpose and mission of our organization?” Better yet, ask them and know for sure, and then take steps to clarify and realign around a strong and inspiring purpose.
If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.
To learn more about getting your team on the same page, contact Robyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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