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The Tyranny Of Purpose

By Art van Bodegraven | 01/24/2016 | 9:14 AM

We've all been driven nearly nuts by the "purpose-driven" craze. The purpose-driven life and all that. But, to no one's surprise, the purpose-driven mantra has been hijacked by zealots, creating glassy-eyed throngs of followers (think Night of the Living Dead) in pursuit of purpose.

But what purpose, and whose, asks thindifference.com? Do we really own the purposes we are chasing? In life, in leadership, in the workplace? Have manipulative bosses made pretzels of purposes for their self-aggrandizement? And, are we expected to subjugate our purposes in favor of someone else's?

Has money corrupted the power of purpose? Ask Volkswagen about software trickeration. Then, consider REI, which closed on Black Friday to encourage people to get out and do something. Volkswagen crossed a line in a purpose-driven financial performance objective. REI made a purpose-activated move by simply closing stores for one day, reflecting a core value.

And REI is also in the business of making money. It might be time to re-evaluate how we reflect, energize, and actuate purpose in our personal and business lives. Especially with the emergence of Millennials as a dominant component in the workforce.

They want, even demand, purpose in their work. Not hollow driven purpose, but genuine activated purpose that capitalizes on their skills for both enterprise success but also a greater good.

In short, purpose is vital, but only when it is for real. We need to re-invent the role of purpose in our endeavors, creating high ability/high freedom working models. In this effort, we will discover that not every person is right for an organization, and that not every organization is right for a person. And that's OK.

Purpose activation requires a three-legged foundation: freedom and responsibility, ability and talent, and clarity for alignment around commitments to performance, group success, and a greater good. There's more, and it is not easy, but the possibilities for purpose activation in place of being driven by purpose are worth serious consideration.



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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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