Purpose Driven People
By Alize Hofmeester
Entrepreneur Alize Hofmeester believes that agility is no longer just a buzzword, it’s something all organisations need. It begins with identifying and carefully designing a company’s purpose – a purpose that defines everything that matters – and then identifying the constraints standing in the way of achieving it. She points out that an organisation without purpose lacks direction and focus, making it anything but agile, and asserts that focusing on purpose holds the key to creating sustainable growth.
In the pages of Purpose Driven People, readers learn how to create agility and generate sustainable growth; how to identify barriers getting in the way of achieving full business potential; how to turn managers into role models that can bring about positive transformation at every level; and why tools and systems should always be considered as a means to an end, not an end in themselves.
My Top 3 Takes from the Summary
Business agility holds the key to future success.
Focusing on the needs of customers and employees generates more success, greater innovation, and happier people on both sides of the transaction.
Purpose at every level in an organisation can be designed in four steps.
Creating Business Agility and Sustainable Growth
The author believes that everyone in business wants to deliver value and be meaningful, but she also knows that most people don’t know how or where to begin. In today’s world with new technologies creating new possibilities, customers can order products as and when they want and get them faster than ever. Companies that stay agile are tuned into what matters most to their customers and their employees, and it’s this agility that holds the key to future success. She points out that emerging companies providing products or services entirely in the digital space, and focusing entirely on the needs of their customers and employees, are seeing more success, greater innovation, and happier people on both sides of the transaction, demonstrating that any organisation wanting to harness this power must focus first and foremost on purpose.
Due to the rise of automation and shifting responsibilities, the author believes that reacting more quickly to volatile market conditions and customer or employee demands is a necessity. She states that employees come and go, and people either adapt to new roles or they don’t, leading her to ask the reader what they actually know about the people working in their organisation.
Getting beyond surface-level questions is the key to:
Improving working relationships
Defining an organisational, departmental, or team purpose
Determining the influence of purpose on talent, jobs, roles, and agility
Practical experiments and work methods for creating
Design a Purpose in Four Steps
Whether you’re working on a start-up, scale-up, major corporation, small business, department, or team, there are four steps to forming a purpose that remain the same at all levels across an organisation. They are:
Step 1: Do research and collect as much information as possible.
Step 2: Create a storyline.
Step 3: Test the storyline on the target group.
Step 4: Define the purpose.
Communication is the basis for creating awareness and interaction, making communication the foundation of a self-organising team. The author draws attention to the fact that most of us think we communicate clearly, but very often, it transpires that a message has been interpreted differently by different people. The question she asks readers to consider is how well they know the recipient of the message; do they know the recipient’s needs or how they will react? As soon as an organisation decides to communicate to its people that a change is needed, they must start thinking about the recipient of the message, or better yet, start to think for the recipient. To do this, the needs of the recipient must be known.
A key point Alize makes is that communication needs to be ongoing. She notes that asking when communication can stop and ‘regular’ work can begin is a frequently asked question, but then adds that in today’s complex world, organisations need to keep adapting and developing all the time. This means each new phase requires a different communication message: the purpose doesn’t change, but the path to get there does.
Describing the building of an agile organisation as being like a game of Jenga, the author creates a mental image of the complex frameworks and processes involved in a large organisation. She believes that for years, we have built structure on top of structure, and the larger the organisation, the more extensive the job framework, the more complex the processes, and the greater the number of separate departments and silos. This means that changing to a more agile structure is going to require the breaking down of those silos bit by bit, leading to the question of whether the tower will stay upright or come tumbling down.
From structural and visible constraints to invisible contractions, an awareness of what stands in the way of enhanced agility is needed, and it’s vital to take constraints and barriers to progress seriously – and then eliminate them. It's fully understood that eliminating constraints is easier said than done, but Alize asserts that it’s essentially the only thing you can do when you, as an organisation or as a human being, want to achieve your goals and pursue your purpose. Constraints block progress and have a demotivating effect, stopping you and your organisation from developing and making progress, so the key message here is that identifying those constraints and doing something about them is the only remedy.
Questions the author asks the reader to answer are: What do role models and leaders have in common? Are managers now all of a sudden leaders, or do we not need managers at all anymore? What exactly do those concepts mean? When are you a manager, and when are you a leader? She notes that our vision of leadership and what makes a leader has changed, and as we head into the future of work, leadership takes on a different meaning. The point being made is that to succeed, we must all transform from managers to leaders, and from leaders into true role models. This means reducing the use of terms like ‘manager’ or ‘superior’ and focusing on the impact we have on the people around us, and how we can inspire them to follow and excel instead.
In an organisation transitioning to agility, everyone has a role to play. As a role model, it might be difficult to show vulnerability or to admit to finding something difficult, but the author stresses that it’s never too late to talk about difficult subjects or to tell your team that you misunderstood something or made a mistake. Questions she suggests asking and answering for yourself are: What is your story? What example do you set or want to set? Do you have something you’re passionate about, a purpose? How do you communicate it?
To assess yourself as a role model, rate yourself on a scale of one to ten on the following statements:
I have a clearly defined purpose that matches the work I do and my department’s and organisation’s purpose.
I actively share this purpose with colleagues through storytelling.
I am aware of my biases, prejudices, and blind spots.
It is important to me that we have role models at the organisation, and I regularly talk with colleagues about what a role model is.
In the department and in the team, we have agreed on the kind of behaviour role models should display and how we intend to challenge each other on that behaviour.
As a leader, I regularly seek feedback on my role from peers and employees.
I encourage colleagues to keep engaging with each other.
Whenever there are innovations that are interesting for our organisations and aligned with the purpose, I discuss them with colleagues, and we look at how to integrate them into the organisation.
There needs to be a shared understanding of what agility means for the organisation, employees, and the leadership team itself. This will provide a solid base from which to operate, and it lies at the heart of what Alize refers to as the People Journey Circle.
Accelerating and Elevating
A team will only ever be as fast as its slowest member, and the pace at which one employee works influences the overall pace of the team or even the department. The challenge lies in getting the slowest member to accelerate to the group’s pace, and this is something the author sees as an ability starlings have. She believes that people also have the ability, but only if they’re willing to extend their feelers and listen to the people around them.
An organisation is one large system that everyone is a part of. When teams pull together in delivering a product, each team will have an effect on the pace at which the other team works. If one team gets stuck, the other team cannot proceed. Whether you work for an organisation or provide something in some other way, your behaviour and way of working and thinking, as well as the speed at which you work, all have a bearing on the value and relevance of the system as a whole. It’s for this reason, the author asserts that to excel, we shouldn’t be boosting our top performers – we should be elevating our lowest performers.
Observing that today’s online world creates new roles such as ‘YouTuber’ or ‘influencer,’ the author believes continuous learning has never been more important. New technologies follow each other in rapid succession, and for those in generations growing up with them, new is normal. It’s for this reason that it’s vital to start thinking and learning differently, addressing the conditions and barriers that affect learning and finding ways to remove them. She points out the importance of developing a learning mindset, and of always being willing to experiment in order to learn, as this will help in making the leap to becoming a learning organisation.
Alize explains that the things that impact how we perceive the world are our ecosystem, and it’s our ecosystem that impacts the way we think, perceive, act, and behave. As human beings, we are selective. Our brain decides what we see and don’t see, based on our worldview and our existing biases. As a result, we often don’t see what we do not expect to see. She points out that you can either hide behind this comfortable wall or take it as an incentive to look beyond the obvious. Our ecosystem isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it’s invisible to us, then we can quickly become blind to its effects. We can become blind to our biases or the comfortable half-truths we tell ourselves, which stand in the way of continuous learning.
Means to an End
A point clearly put across to the reader is that tools are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. The author comments that tools matter in that if you were to paint your house, you’d do well to select quality brushes, rollers, and paints for the job, but this doesn’t mean to say you need to have all the latest gadgetry or equipment to be able to do it. The message here is that working with the latest technology can be a lot of fun and make your organisation feel like you’re on the cutting edge, but all tools used need to fulfil your purpose, and what their use actually delivers needs to be questioned.
The back cover blurb declares this book to be the WHY, WHAT and HOW of creating business agility and sustainable growth, and the contents do exactly that. The author’s points are supported by data, research, practical experiments, tooling, and cases from experts, and all are presented in a way that makes trying things out directly a simple process. As the author states, implementing agile models and methodologies is one thing, but being truly agile from the heart of the organisation is often a struggle – this book gives you the information you need to remove the struggle.
The practical ideas and insights shared by people who have gone through the transition to greater agility and sustainable growth make this book easy to read and absorb. The contents are cleverly presented and engaging, and the lessons learned will be of huge benefit to anyone looking to achieve business success through people's success.
Bio of Author
Alize Hofmeester is considered a true visionary in the field of business transformations, and as a successful purpose-driven entrepreneur, author, and inspirational speaker, she advises and coaches boardroom leaders and transformation teams on mindset, leadership, the people side of change, and staying relevant to customers.
Purpose Driven People: Creating business agility and sustainable growth by Alize Hofmeester, 2021, ISBN: 978-9-083-11030-1 is available to buy at Amazon.