Purpose, values and vision: Is it time to refine your foundation?

When your purpose, values and vision are aligned and doing their job, you can feel it… and measure it. But your organization – and the world – are not static. As conditions change, and your organization evolves, you might need to revisit these concepts. In the last few years, especially, a lot of companies are realizing that their organizational foundation no longer reflects their priorities or what their employees stand for.

In our work, we’ve observed that there are some moments that are natural opportunities to intentionally step back and refresh your foundation and create new alignment around purpose, values and vision.

In a previous post, we dug into purpose, values and vision to understand what these terms mean and how they work together. In this post, we’ll explore three key opportunities for revisiting your organizational foundation.

When is a good time to reset your foundation?

Organizations might need a reset whenever they're experiencing pain or a roadblock that’s preventing them from accomplishing their goals. Consider revisiting your foundation when you want to:

1. Lean into your next phase of growth

When your leaders recognize that where you started from isn't what you've grown into as an organization, it's time to intentionally reset the foundation. Sometimes (but not always) this is linked to a natural leadership change where a new CEO is tasked with setting a new course for the future.

For Herschel Supply Co., a number of factors came together to push them into rethinking their foundation: they had brought on their first outside CEO, articulated a mandate to expand their global growth and expressed a desire to evolve from their first decade of success. They realized that the foundation they were working from wouldn’t elevate to the level they were aspiring to reach in the next phase of their company.

We worked with them to understand and retain what remained true for them in the first 10 years of their journey, identify what might hold back their progress, and define a refined path forward, which now drives their growth. Activating their new purpose, values and vision aligned their team and has been instrumental in helping them achieve their potential.

2. Respond to rapidly changing market shifts

Today's quickly shifting economy is generating innovative products, offerings and strategies, as well as new ways of being, behaving and working. Organizations with a strong foundation are well positioned to anticipate, respond and adapt to change – or even drive it. Here are a three common forces of change that are impacting organizations right now:

Hybrid work culture: In 2020, many organizations moved to a 100% remote workforce overnight. Now, some of them are struggling to identify what the next iteration of their work experience, culture and moments of connection should look like.

We’ve seen how redefining an organization’s foundation can help them co-create new ways of working that positively impact employee experience, collaboration, productivity and more. When purpose, values and vision are aligned, people have a shared framework for making decisions that everyone understands. Decisions around where and how to work together effectively feel authentic and clear to people at all levels, instead of arbitrarily imposed from above. This creates autonomy and momentum across the organization, as employees have the confidence to make decisions that are based on a shared mindset.

New operating models: In response to changing markets and customer demands, some organizations are adjusting their product and service. This often ignites organizational change or restructuring and introduces new operating models.

Organizational change can be challenging. It requires effort, time and commitment. But we’ve seen that when your purpose, values and vision are aligned, you don’t have to sell your change to employees. Instead, you engage employees along the way to build the future together. When the foundation is strong, people are productive and engaged, because they’re lit up and excited about working together toward a common goal.

Competition for talent: The labour market is another area that’s undergoing significant changes. Some organizations are recognizing that they are failing to attract and keep the talent they need to thrive because they don’t have a competitive employer value proposition.

To navigate this change, they’re choosing to reset their foundation, so they can attract employees who feel connected to the purpose and aligned with their vision. When employees can see themselves in the vision of the organization and understand their role in helping to get closer to it, it’s a powerful motivator. They’re clear on how they contribute to where the organization is going and less likely to look elsewhere for that meaning in their work lives.

3. Join forces with likeminded organizations

Whether through mergers, acquisitions or new partnerships, if you’re creating a new entity, you’ll need to form a new culture too.

Co-creating a new and shared purpose, values and vision is a way to intentionally shape any newly reconstituted organization. This can be difficult and complex work, as it uncovers and acknowledges the different cultures across legacy organizations. It requires potentially leaving behind aspects of the legacy organizations that have previously made them successful but that aren’t desired for the future entity. However, leaning in to creating this new, “to-be” foundation creates an opportunity for employees and leaders across the now united organization to buy in to the path forward. This alignment drives clarity, both internally and externally.

Take the next step

If your organization is approaching one of these crossroads, now is a good time to explore resetting your foundation to create the best conditions, and possibly unleash breakthrough potential, for better performance.

Whether completely redefining a new purpose, values and vision, or just making refinements, you’ll need to be open to discovery. The process is rooted in empathy for the experiences and aspirations of leaders, managers, employees, customers and stakeholders. This is not a journey that is crafted in a room of executives without the input of the people who need to bring it to life. To be successful, revising your foundation demands a mindset of collaboration and co-creation and an understanding that you are embarking on deep, meaningful and truly rewarding organizational transformation. 

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