On wording Purpose

Effective collaboration needs Purpose. Often, it is helpful to make the purpose explicit: to give words to what the group or organisation aims to achieve.

What are good ways to word purpose?

I like purposes that are worded as an outcome and a process at the same time:

  • “exquisite organisation” (HolacracyOne)
  • “Effective collaboration through meaningful conversations and clear structure” (us, Röll & Korvenmaa)

These  point at a desired future state and at a process of getting there. Or of never getting there, but  infinitely trying. They can be understood as a practise.

Getting started

At the beginning, ANY purpose that a group agrees on can work. It doesn’t need to be great or perfect, good enough to get started is, well, good enough to get started.

Nenásilná komunikace, who worked with us to set up initial structure and group work processes, started with spread NVC in the Czech Republic. This is narrow and relatively vague, but was sufficient to kick things off.

Brian Robertson tells the story of how HolacracyOne started out with a boring Spread Holacracy – also: good enough to start. It can change.

The abstract and the specific

You may find that the initial purpose points at something  specific (“spread Non-Violent Communication”), whereas the organisation is actually about something larger, which it cannot express  at this time.

I recommend to look for something that’s big enough to be inspirational, but focussed enough to be practical and not overwhelming.

  • “To catalyse a community of interest, practice and expertise in Holacracy, in the UK and Ireland.”  is what Agile Organisation currently uses. This may not be massively inspirational, but is very clear and practical.

If in doubt, start with the specific, and then evolve. Use simple words, and keep it short.

Over to you

What are your organisations’ purposes? What do you like about them? How have they evolved? Please share your story!

(This post evolved from an online-conversation with Karolina Iwa of Track2Facilitation. Thank you for kicking it off!)

For more links on Purpose, see our Tumblelog!

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