At a time when businesses are having to rebuild based on some sense of a ‘new normal,’ a sense of purpose is arguably a priority. A new report explains how ‘purpose as strategy’ can help inform the choices that need to be made as organisations adapt.

The report from the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, Enacting Purpose Within The Modern Corporation, argues that this crisis presents an opportunity for businesses to rebuild on stronger foundations.

Purpose articulates why an organisation exists, the authors say. “It sets out the issues that an organisation seeks to solve … This sets it apart from three other important organising principles for organisations – values, mission and vision.”

While many organisations would claim to have set out a purpose in mission and vision statements – and some would also say they’re putting it into practice and have confirmed this through endorsement of global norms set by multilateral institutions and sustainability reporting – intent is not by itself enough, the authors state.

“Organisations need to identify structured ways to enact stated purpose.”

To that end the report report proposes a SCORE framework:

Simplify: Purpose needs to be simple enough to be understood by the entire organisational workforce, the wider supply chain and other connected stakeholders.

Connect: Purpose should be the reference point for strategic decisions. It has to translate into what everyone in the organisation does; and externally, it should connect with partner organisations throughout its supply chain and customer markets.

Own: Ownership of purpose starts with the board but it has to be embraced by everyone in the organisation. Purpose also has to be accepted and supported by the organisation’s shareholders if it is to have any credibility.

Reward: A group-wide performance measurement system should align the organisation’s incentives and rewards with promotion of purposeful behaviour.

Exemplify: Bring organisational purpose to life through communication and narrative strategies. Done well, these can build a sense of shared identity around a common purpose that inspires those working in the organisation to believe that they are contributing as a team to something that is meaningful and fulfilling.

The authors offer this as “a contribution to board directors’ deliberations on how to enact purpose effectively within the organisations that they lead”.

The five elements they outline should guide and govern the enactment of purpose, they say.

Sourced from Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford