Recently, Mark Zuckerberg published a strong defence of both globalisation and Facebook’s business model. In a nearly 6,000-word letter, he argued persuasively that Facebook thrives under a globalised socioeconomic system, where barriers to information, labor, capital, and products are minimal.
Not everyone agrees with him on that, but it is difficult to argue with his attempt to articulate a purpose for his creation. There are many examples of research suggesting that purposeful organisations outperform their competitors; but research also suggests that people have a large degree of cynicism toward business leaders who speak about purpose. Senior management tends to have a greater sense of purpose than middle management, who in turn have a greater sense of purpose than lower-level employees. Senior management may try to cultivate a sense of purpose, but employees are generally not buying what they are selling and often regard the stated purpose of their organisation as nothing more than buzzwords and consultant-speak.
In a recent article in HRB, George Serafeim argues that Zuckerberg’s letter offers a lesson in how the purpose of an organisation can be communicated in an authentic way and provides a great checklist. You can read the full article here and a summary of the checklist is below.
A good statement of corporate purpose should:
Be organization-specific. It needs to bring some clarity or differentiation, compared to other organisations, and to reflect the reality of the organisation. Vague phrases such as teamwork, leadership and innovation just don’t cut it.
Articulate the how. It needs to provide some clarity on how to achieve that purpose.
Point to a void in the market. Dose it identify the market void that an organisation hopes to fill. What do people desperately want that the organisation aims to provide?
Explain your competitive positioning. Why is your company is uniquely positioned to achieve their purpose?
Provide a way to measure success. How will you know whether your activities are focused in the most productive direction?
Think of purpose as a continuous process. Are you embarked upon a search for mastery?
Admit the challenges. Admit the challenges head-on, and at the same time describes actions to mitigate them.