“Purpose-Driven” is Not Enough

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As organizations and their leadership continue to evolve and develop strategies for engaging their people ever more deeply in work, an important notion has developed which by some, is seen as the key to the puzzle to find the source of “purpose” connected to that work, then to establish that as the motivation or “driver” for the efforts of the enterprise and allow, cajole, compel, and coax employees across the enterprise to connect to this purpose, which will then lead to deeper levels of personal motivation, and engagement with the work of the whole enterprise.

There’s good reason and loads of evidence showing that this is a wise strategy for organizational success.

Dan Pink summarized years of research in social psychology in the best seller Drive, in which he seats the roots of personal motivation, especially in the context of work, as “Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy.”

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones in Why Should Anyone Work Here? outline some key principles that are prevalent in highly engaged and successful organizations. One of these—“Stand for Something More Than Profit”—also captures the need for a defining, perhaps even noble, statement of cause as necessary for engagement, success, and longevity.

And most recently, in The Power of AND, Ed Freeman and his colleagues outline the “new story of business,” which includes the principle that “purpose, values, and ethics are as important as money/profits.”


Just so we’re clear, we’re on board with the notion that building, becoming, or realizing you already are part of a purpose-driven organization (PDO) is a strategy that can form the basis for really good things for employees, your stakeholders, and the world.

The drive for purpose opposes the very outmoded transactional view of employee motivation and engagement, which naively posits that “I’ll do my best work when I realize some extrinsic rewards, see my pot of gold waiting at the end of my performance appraisal, or am able to crush the competition.”

Instead, the PDO idea states (correctly, we’d agree) that individuals can connect to a higher purpose and mission to do their best work. This “involvement in outcomes” of something bigger than oneself is a real source of motivation and long-term satisfaction and, for some, the basis for a highly fulfilling life.

But it’s not nearly enough.

“Purpose-driven” fails again and again when an organization’s capabilities don’t match its aspirations.

The real trick, and the true key to long-term sustained success for organizations and ongoing engagement, is to move beyond purpose-driven.

The goal is to become purpose-enabled.

No doubt purpose-driven is a requirement for being purpose-Enabled. But it is not sufficient.

Here’s the difference:

Purpose-driven is built on belief; purpose-enabled is built on capability.

It’s the difference between knowing where you’re going and having the skills to get there, between aspiration and action.

PEOs consistently deliver on their ambitious goals, they course-correct and learn, and they are architects and stewards of organizational systems which support the achievement of purpose….

Source: HR Daily Advisor

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