Purpose – Why are we here, what are we for?

As we come out of Covid-19 lockdown it is clear that things have changed, we will have to adjust to a new normal with social distancing and infection control here to stay for at least a while.

As individuals, we may have become used to working from home much of the time, some of us have lost our jobs, and for some careers built up over many years will no longer be available or seem as attractive.

Some organisations as bike shops have had a good crisis, others such as the hospitality industry have been badly hit, while many others have just kept their heads down and carried on, adapting they go. Some organisations have been shut down, some have seen their customers disappear, and some have seen their supply chains disrupted. All have been affected in some way and will continue to be so.

Over the last few months we have had little choice but to react to events as they unfold, the future has seemed too uncertain and fast changing to do anything other than take opportunities to survive. As we move into our new normal though it would be wise to consider how this will affect us and to plan our future – as a strategic planner, I would say this! However before we start our strategic planning we should think about something even more fundamental, what is it we are trying to do, why are we here?

If this sounds a bit existential, it is meant to. As individuals, what is it we really want to be and do? As businesses and organisations, what do we really provide to our customers and users, what do they want from us? What is our objective, our purpose, our mission? Here I don’t just mean the slick mission, vision and values statements that are so much part of our corporate world, but something deeper, more visceral and emotional.

For individuals, this may be the ideal time to re-examine whether you want to try to slip back into your old roles in your old career or whether to strive for something new that excites a new passion. You only have one life – there is probably no better time than now to try something new! Twenty years ago I was caught up in the dot.com crash and realised that my interests and skills no longer lay in developing technology myself, but in organising and enabling others – I could achieve far more that way. I cashed in my savings, took an MBA and started a new career improving projects, programmes and organisations, working with people rather than bits and bytes, something I still find fascinating. While a complete career change is not for everyone, think about what you want to do and how you want to live for the next few years, the opportunities will be there if you look.

Organisations often lose sight of what they are and what they are for, what it is they really do for their customers. A few years ago I worked for an organisation that was convinced it was a high technology engineering company, when it’s main activity was relatively low-tech ship repair. After a great deal of soul searching it realised it was really an engineering project management company and should concentrate on developing those skills. I also know of some sailing clubs whose funds and energy have slowly shifted over the years from supporting sailing to preserving their premises – something they need to think very hard about. Now is a good time to think about what is our real purpose and objectives.

How we do this is going to depend on our circumstances, for individuals and small organisations it could well come from our heart – a sense of what we want to be and do. For larger or more disciplined organisations it may come from research and analysis, however this may still be tempered by an emotional sense of what we want to do. In either case the outcome has to resonate with our emotional sense of self.

Of course we may go though this soul searching, and perhaps some analysis, and decide that things are just fine as they are, in that case we can carry on with renewed confidence and hopefully enthusiasm.

I will look at some thinking and analysis tools in future posts.

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