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We’ve explored the power of purpose in great detail in my previous posts but here’s the key takeaway: people want to work for an organization with a purpose they can get behind AND purpose-driven organizations enjoy higher financial results.

Good news! Leaders agree. 79% of leaders surveyed by PwC agreed that purpose was central to their business success.

Bad news! Only 34% in that same survey said they use the organization’s stated purpose as a guidepost for decision-making.

The Problem: When an organization’s actions are not in alignment with their purpose it shows. Employees know it. Customers know it. Even worse, this incongruency limits the organization’s true potential that pursuing purpose provides.

The Solution: Purpose must be integrated into your organization’s decision-making processes, from the small, daily choices to the defining, strategic choices.

    A Real Life Example:



CVS has a meaningful, compelling purpose for its organization: Helping people on their path to better health. Prior to 2015, CVS also sold about $2.0 Billion a year in cigarettes and add-on revenue.

Well, that’s a conundrum.

In 2014, to better align with the company’s purpose and branding strategy CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes. Yes, it was a bold decision to walk away from $2B in revenue and I’m not convinced many public CEO’s would actually have the courage to do that. However, the ultimate revenue potential for CVS is far greater pursuing a health strategy (vis-a-vis the Aetna acquisition) that is properly aligned with their purpose.

And let’s be honest, selling more cancer sticks is not exactly the strategy that’s going to better position CVS to compete with Amazon, is it?

Sidenote: Not only did CVS stop selling cigarettes but they also committed $50 million to a five-year community initiative to prevent tobacco use among youth.

 Healthy Snacking:

Another step in CVS’s effort to help people on their path to better health is the launch of a new store format that bumps candy bars, snack chips, and sugary drinks out of the prime real estate at the front of its stores. They will still be selling those products, but the high-traffic, impulse-buy zone will be stocked with “nutritious food bars, natural supplements and makeup without harmful chemicals.”

CVS said it had already introduced the redesign at 800 of its 9,700 stores, with the upgraded locations experiencing an average sales increase of 2.5%.

Purpose as a Guidepost for Decision-Making:

For purpose to be embraced as a guide in decision-making, it must be tightly woven into the fabric of the organization. That requires intention. Here are a few ways you can implement this idea:


  • Strategic Planning: Before, during and after your strategic planning, ask the question, “How well does our strategy fulfill our organization’s purpose?” You can take it a step further and identify potentially better ideas by asking, ‘Is this strategy the best way to fulfill our organization’s purpose?” Or “What might be a better strategy that would fulfill our organization’s purpose?”
  • Communications: In communicating initiatives and decisions with the organization, put them in context of how they serve the organization’s purpose. Don’t assume it is clear. Help connect the dots for everyone.
  • Meetings/Daily Decisions: For decisions made during routine meetings, begin the practice of answering the question, “How is this decision in alignment with our organization’s purpose?” And, “What might be an alternative decision that would serve our purpose better?”
  • Organizational Development: Determine the skill sets and competencies required to fulfill the organization’s purpose and include those in the personal development plans for employees.

Idea into Action

The best place to start using purpose as a decision-making guidepost is to determine where the organization is currently out of alignment.

Here are a few simple ways to begin exploring purpose alignment:

  • Add-on To Employee Survey: In the next employee survey, add the question: ” Where are we not living in alignment with our purpose?”
  • Middle Management Perspective: Select a group of mid-level managers to discuss the question “Where are we not living in alignment with our purpose?” Have the group consider possible ways to gain alignment. The team can then share their results with Leadership.  Note: It’s essential that participants have the freedom to express their candid thoughts, so Leadership Team members should not be a part of the discussion.

Once you have a handle on where your organization is not in alignment with its purpose you can begin to make the changes necessary.

If you would like help implementing any of these ideas with your team, let’s talk!  Please share your thoughts with me on this, and if you’ve found this information helpful, you can help me get the word out by using the links provided and sharing it with a colleague.   Thanks!

Work well,