The 5 Why's Strategy
One powerful method for getting at purpose is the five whys. Start with the descriptive statement We make X products or We deliver X services, and then ask, Why is that important? five times. After a few whys, you’ll find that you’re getting down to the fundamental purpose of the organisation.
The 5 Why's is a strategy to get an organisation to it's Core Purpose
- 3M - To solve unsolved problems innovatively
- Mary Kay Cosmetics - To give unlimited opportunity to women
- Mckinsey & Company - To help leading corporations and governments be more successful
- Nike - To experience the emotion of competing, winning and crushing competitors
- Sony - To experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public
- Walt Disney - To make people happy.
As you can see, 3M doesn't define it's purpose in terms of glues and papers but as a never-ending quest to solve unsolved problems through innovation. Purpose should not be confused with specific goals or business strategy. You may achieve a goal, or complete strategy, but you cannot complete your purpose. It stay's out ahead of you providing fire and at times becomes your filter. It does not change but it does inspire change.
The 'Five Why's Strategy' can help companies in any industry frame their work in a more meaningful way. The primary role of a Core Purpose is to guide and inspire. In order for modern organisations to excel they need to draw on the full creative energy and talent of their people. But why should people give full measure? A clear, tangible, epic and credible core purpose draws more out of insiders than any other means. When you nail the core purpose it becomes the story that staff tell themselves as to why they are doing the work they do in your organisation.