Purpose is the Sun in VUCA Work Environments

Talking with Janine Tramont of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, broke some of my personal ‘stuckness’.

Talking about a meeting she attended and asked;

  • What business are you in?
  • Who are the customers you want?
  • Who are the customers you are getting?

In that moment my psychological “stuckness” broke free, and she helped me remember that ‘Defining Purposewhy am I here? why are you here? why are we here? … and looking at what we think and what we got is a necessary and pragmatic step.

Choosing the right path in complex environments Create Learning Team Building and Leadership

I’ve been consulting & coaching two companies with the same objectives. Over a two year period:

  1. Create a Value Proposition with data to support the value added; that can be used to define and attract new customers, vendors, donors, suppliers, and community collaboration.
  2. Enhance organizational infrastructure to be better prepared to change and flourish in the VUCA (Volatile; Uncertain; Complex; Ambiguous) world of the Affordable Care Act, Insurance Providers, Medicare, Medicaid, Managed Care, etc…  


From Janine’s questions, to my stuckness, to your team, it all points to purpose.

What’s the purpose?

Purpose tells you and your current / potential customers why you exist, the business you are in and the business you are not in…

The challenge of defining purpose is that what you state as your purpose and your purpose in practice may be two very different things.

Like Dr. Russ Ackoff shares in this video, at around 13:12.

“…take a hospital. It proclaims that it’s there to take care of patients, that’s nonsense. It’s there to provide the doctor with a place to practice medicine and we’re there to make their practice possible.”

Questions to Define + Determine Purpose:

  • Who are we as a company?
  • Why are we here?
  • Who are our employees / our stakeholders / our community partners?
  • Why are these employees working here, right now?
  • Who are our customers?
  • Why do our current customers come to us?
  • Who were our customers?
  • Why did our past customers stop coming to us?
  • Who will be our customers?
  • Why will they come to us for services/products?
  • What business are we in?
  • What evidence do we have to prove that we are really in that business?
  • What business are we not in?
  • What evidence do we have to prove that we are really not in that business?
  • How are we successful, currently? What evidence do we have to show that we are successful at what we claim to be successful at?
  • How are we going to be successful in the long term 1 to 2 years? 2 to 5 years? 5 to 10 years? How will be know that we are doing these things and not something else?
  • How were we successful in the past? What evidence do we have to show that we were successful in the past? 
  • What values and principles should be consistent across all our relationships internally amongst co-workers? Externally?
  • What evidence do we see that we are practicing really doing these principles?

I find that few companies and work teams pay attention to and can answer these questions. Fewer can answer them consistently amongst 3 to 5 people.

The need to focus on purpose during periods of change and tumult will connect and create a focus on the shared & individual processes that are creating the required results. With purpose a system works. With a clear and consistent purpose the system-drives-behaviors that thrive in VUCA (Volatile; Uncertain; Complex; Ambiguous) environments.


What do you think?

Does your work have a purpose? How can you recognize that the stated purpose and the practiced purpose are not the same?

Team Building Leadership Innovation expert Michael Cardus

michael cardus is create-learning

Link to original post


Leave a Reply