It is well accepted that motivated teams produce the best results. The question then is, how do you motivate your team. Traditionally, businesses have used monetary rewards which can be very effective in the short term but may cause damage in the long run and become less effective.
Purpose is one of the most important motivators. So why does your team exist?
Motivation however is a big topic and debating it is not the purpose of this article.
For that reason I choose to follow expert advice instead. In his book “Drive”, Daniel Pink makes the case that motivation works best if it is intrinsic e.g. when we are doing something for the inherent interest or the joy it brings. One of the building blocks of creating the conditions of intrinsic motivation is the existence of a purpose which individuals can subscribe to.
Nowadays we are used to seeing all kinds of organisations come up with and promote their vision or mission or goal. The problem is that most of them struggle to get it right. To make sure we do a better job, we will borrow Simon Sinek’s four characteristics of a great purpose (which Simon calls “just cause”) and use them to guide you so you can create your team or your organisation's great purpose. I’ll go over a personal example here but you can follow the same steps and use my example to improve your own statement.
Your starting point can be either your existing mission statement or if you don’t have one you can try and create it based on what you believe is your team or your organisation's purpose. Let’s say your team is building a new web shop for a business called BigStore. Your team’s starter for ten mission could be
“to provide BigStore’s customers with a flawless shopping experience by improving every element of the online shopping journey”.
I will use a real example from LeaveWizard, a startup I am a co-founder of. Several years before we came across Simon Sinek’s book, and as we were growing as a business, we had come up with the following sentence as our company's mission:
“LeaveWizard is a purposeful, innovative, lean organisation, that aims to help our customers make progress by delivering value in everything we do”
I clearly remember the day we came up with this statement and how happy we were with it although we couldn’t really explain why. And it did turn out to have some of the elements of a great just cause but it needed more work. To start with let’s look at examples from some of the greatest companies of our time.
Inclusive, and exists primarily for the benefit of others?
Looking back at the original text, we can see that our statement clearly states that we aim to help our customers which makes it for the benefit of others, however by stating “our customers” it isn’t being inclusive enough. Therefore at this step we decided to change it to make it more inclusive, like this:
“LeaveWizard is a purposeful, innovative, lean organisation, that aims to help people make progress by delivering value in everything we do”
We did not think this is anywhere as good as the examples we saw earlier but we felt it is moving in the right direction.
Resilient and enduring?
This criteria resulted in a long discussion and we’ve had to almost completely rephrase our mission statement. We didn’t think the first part is resilient or enduring enough. After looking at various different suggestions here’s what we come up with:
“To improve people’s happiness at work through automating boring tasks and reducing wait times”
While this still didn’t feel right, we thought it represents a move in the right direction so we were ready to move to the next question.
Idealistic, and probably unachievable?
What we had now, sounded more idealistic than the original. But we thought it might be using too many words which makes it difficult to remember. So we played with the words a little more and after some more discussions we arrived at:
“To improve people’s lives at work by providing innovative products”
This felt like it ticks the idealistic box and felt broadly unachievable too. At this point I thought we started to like the sound of it and we progressed on to the last question.
Always far greater than the products and services?
Clearly our original statement fails this criteria but the most recent one, we thought was looking promising. Some of us still debated if we can cut some more words and we continued discussing which resulted in the following short statement:
“To improve people’s lives at work”
This final sentence we arrived at is obviously much shorter and easier to remember. It also removed any restrictions about how specifically we aim to achieve our goal. Going back through the criteria we believed it passes all four tests and therefore it became LeaveWizard’s new “Just cause”.
Coming up with a great mission statement is just the first step towards creating the perfect environment for motivated teams and individuals to perform at their best. Achieving this objective is rarely a straightforward piece of work.There will be many challenges on your journey, but I assure you, the hard work you are going to put in will be worth it in the end. For there is no greater achievement than seeing a group of people take pride and joy in the work they are producing and ultimately being fulfilled and happy in life. Stay in touch to find out the rest of the elements you will need to create your perfect work environment.
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About the author
Plamen is a LeanStack coach and an experienced Software Delivery consultant helping organisations around the world identify their path to success and follow it.