The core purpose of most organisations is to maximise its performance—whether it be a not-for-profit agency, a government department, a faith-based group, a health provider, a commercial enterprise, or any other organisation. The definition of performance differs from organisation to organisation differs, of course. NFPs measure performance in terms of services provided, whereas commercial enterprises generally measure performance in terms of wealth creation, for example.
Notwithstanding this honourable goal of maximising performance, many organisations struggle to perform as they'd like. Often, regulatory frameworks and internal confusion (over purpose, strategy and operational priorities) divert attention and resources away from the "business" of the organisation. Why is this? I'd like to suggest that many organisations are not entirely clear about why they exist—even though they think they are.
When I'm asked to help an organisation with its performance, one of the first things I ask about is core purpose. Sometimes a clear statement is provided, but only sometimes. More tellingly though, the underlying values and belief system—upon which behaviour is based—is generally not nailed down. Organisations are complex, socially dynamic entities, and even the best laid plans can be readily undermined by dissenting (and sometimes well meaning) individuals or groups. And therein lies a root cause. High performance is generally contingent on having a clear purpose and an agreed set of values to guide behaviour and decision-making. Just ask the CEO of any successful enterprise.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and effective board practice; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.