What drives agility in large, complex organisations? Most have spent a great deal of time, trouble and money creating and communicating a clear Purpose. And most are finding it’s making no difference to the behaviours in the organisation. There is a gap between the purpose at Board level and the experience of employees and customers.

Entrepreneurially-minded organisations achieve agility not by having a purpose but what they do with it.  These agile and entrepreneurially-minded businesses exhibit a clearly defined set of drivers within their cultures that are the secret to bridging the Purpose Gap.

The first of these, TRUST, we discussed in our previous article The second is a feeling of, and desire for, OWNERSHIP.

Unless everyone in the organisation feels – and feels allowed to feel – a powerful sense of ownership of the business, it will not flow through into agile employee behaviours.  Organisations in which everyone feels an emotional investment exhibit employee behaviours of alignment and engagement. If you feel you own something you can’t but care strongly about its success, and work enthusiastically towards that goal.

And there’s something even more powerful. People who feel ownership will also act autonomously to serve the good of the company, rather than wait to be directed. Autonomy is the source of agility in a world in which there just isn’t time any more to always be asking the boss.

[pullquote]If you feel you own something you can’t but care strongly about its success, and work enthusiastically towards that goal.[/pullquote]

These cultures find employees going out of their way to service customers beyond the call, find innovative solutions, and protect the company from harm.

Entrepreneurial businesses know a simple truth; people who own also care. Without ownership people agility is weak and customer value compromised.

So, how can complex corporate organisations, in which employees don’t meaningfully own the company, replicate the feeling of ownership typical in entrepreneurial businesses? How can they create Employee Agility through that desire for ownership?
[pullquote]Autonomy is the source of agility in a world in which there just isn’t time any more to always be asking the boss.[/pullquote]

Contexis Purpose Gap_v3_3The critical point is that a feeling of ownership has little to do with who physically owns the stock. It has everything to do with belief. And the simplest and most compelling route to creating a culture of ownership with its attendant benefits of Employee Agility is to create a belief in the ownership of the purpose the organisation serves. In doing so, everyone in the organisation will develop the mindset of the owner and have a sense of responsibility for outcomes.  

So, how is this achieved? By creating a critical shift in how people at every level of the organisation think and behave. The first step to creating a culture of ownership is to develop a culture of TRUST described in my previous article.

It’s then a matter of reframing the relationship between the company and the employees from one of control to one of self responsibility. It’s about creating a new adult-to-adult relationship in which every employee is given the opportunity to accept responsibility for outcomes and in which, in every team, people are acknowledged and rewarded for taking this self-responsibility. The critical building-block of this is in the relationship between each team member and their immediate boss and the way to do this is to provide managers with the skills and awareness of a new way of working. A way much more akin to entrepreneurial management.

This may sound a lot harder than it actually is. Assuming the purpose the business serves is authentic, compelling and well articulated, most people will instinctively feel a sense of ownership. If the business operates in a paradigm of trust (see article), most people will feel empowered to take responsibility. With consistent and effective management the transition from control to self-responsibility will be a natural process and the behaviours of engagement, autonomy and shared commitment will emerge.

And for those who don’t? Well, they leave.

To find out about the other key drivers of entrepreneurial agility in large organisations, read here and here.

You might also enjoy these articles:

‘Most big companies won’t have the velocity to see out the decade’. Survival tips from the ones wearing the running shoes.

How thinking like an entrepreneur could make corporate organisations 26% more productive

Purpose transforms performance. But if you can’t measure it how can you implement it?


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash