If you want to change the world, what should you do? On one level it’s simple, really. Get clear on your purpose and then take action. That action, driven by purpose, is what creates impact: Purpose Drives Impact. This is simple cause and effect, really. Clear purpose leads to impact. Purpose without action is simply dreaming (You can prove this to yourself by pulling out an atlas – remember those? – or Google Earth and look up a place you’ve always wanted to visit. See? You’re dreaming), while action without purpose is running in circles (To prove this, turn on your GPS without a destination and go for a bike ride. See where it takes you. No helpful voice in your earbuds.).
All of this raises two questions: “What is impact?” and “What is the action?”
What is impact?
We’ll cover this in greater detail in a post of its own, but for now, we can think about impact as all they ways we contribute to creating the world we want to live in. Business typically uses revenue or profit as measuring stick, but impact goes beyond those simple numbers, which really only capture impact on the owners of the business. What is your impact on your customers? On your employees? On your suppliers? On your community? On the environment?
What is action?
Let’s go one level deeper with our framework. The most effective action, where Purpose Drives Impact, can be boiled down to People Executing Strategy. If you think back to high school physics, you will recall that problems were vastly oversimplified. Friction, air resistance and the like were simplified away because if they weren’t, we’d never be able to learn the basic concepts of inertia or work. We’ve done the same thing here:
An inspirational purpose allows you to mobilize the right people. Once you have the right people, you can formulate a strategy that aligns with your purpose and the strengths of those people. Those people then execute your strategy and that’s how you produce impact. Let’s look at each of the pieces of action.
Do you have the right people? Are their accountabilities aligned with their strengths and the needs of the business? Are they fulfilled? Are they motivated? If you’re not having fun, you have a people issue. Your people need to be aligned with your purpose. They are the ones that create the impact.
An effective strategy gives you a way to say “yes” to those activities that fit, and more importantly, a reason to say “no” to those that don’t. There’s good revenue and bad revenue. If you have a clear strategy, the difference between the two is clear. If you’re not growing (however it makes sense to measure growth) as fast as you’d like, you have a strategy issue. Effective strategy tells your company story, about how your Purpose Drives Impact.
Execution is the actual doing. How do you communicate? Are your meetings effective? Does everyone have the information they need to do their job? Effective execution is how you turn growth into impact. If you’re growing as expected but lacking the impact you expect, you have an execution issue. Effective execution (of an effective strategy) is where impact is generated.
Just as in high school physics, those simplifications we made make the thought experiments easier, but once we’re clear on the basics, it becomes obvious that the simplifications mean those thought experiments don’t match our real-world, observed reality.
In thinking about Purpose Drives Impact, you may have already spotted the problem. No one has time, capital or perfect foresight to bring on the right team before formulating the strategy. And we can’t just go off on retreat somewhere for 6 months to create that strategy and expect to have a business to come back to when we’re ready to execute. We can’t afford the time away, and we can’t exist without our connection to the marketplace.Just as clearly, our execution is never perfect, and needs to be refined over time.
What’s needed is akin to refueling in the air, or fixing a flat tire while riding your bike. Here’s what it looks like in our model:
Both strategy and execution inform how we need to strengthen and grow our team, what we learn from our people executing gets fed back into our strategic conversations, and execution improves when we periodically check-in both with our strategy and with our people.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more detail about each of the 5 aspects of the Purpose Drives Impact Framework. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think about these basics, including how it helps you think through your own business. Please send me your thoughts: Ted@TedSarvata.com