We call organisations where people thrive Why-Based Organisations because, in order for people to thrive, they have to be working on things that really matter to them. These organisations know their Why – their ‘cause, purpose, or belief’ – as defined by Simon Sinek.

But more specifically, the Why identifies the unique contribution an organisation makes in the world, that no one else provides, that would be missed if the organisation didn’t exist – AND the impact this has on other peoples’ lives – their customers, suppliers, staff and supporters. When you can answer these questions you know you’ve got your Why!

As an easy way to understand the critical four attributes that Why-Based Organisations have over ‘normal’ organisations, please watch our recently posted 6 minute video.

What a Why-Based Organisation looks and feels like

There are four foundational pillars that explains how a Why-Based Organisation stands out over an ordinary organisation. The way to unleash performance in a Why-Based Organisation is by connecting everyone passionately, viscerally, and emotionally to the Why, and leading from that place. This will require leaders at all levels of the organisation to take on new ways of leading – themselves and others – and developing and practicing the necessary new skills. It will also necessitate the review and change of key processes, as well as ways of working (the critical ‘Hows’).

There are four foundational pillars of a Why-Based Organisation:

  1. Start With Why

Why-Based Organisations are clear and grounded in Purpose (Why), and this is a source of inspiration for clients, employees, and all stakeholders. All the greatest organisations and companies that endure over the long-term have a Why that goes beyond short-term production or economic goals.

  1. Engage Everyone

High engagement companies are more productive, profitable, safe; and they are the best places to work. Rather than relying on coercion to gain control over people, Why-Based Organisations create a healthy “family-like” environment where trust, integrity, and empowerment are both preached and practiced.

  1. Lead from the Heart

The one thing that makes a leader is having a follower. Followers admire leaders who care for them, not only as employees, but as people. As Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, says in his recent book, “Everybody Matters,” ‘Business can change the world if it takes responsibility for the lives entrusted to it.’

  1. Constantly Develop the Organisation

With purpose as a North Star, Why-Based Organisations constantly grow, develop, shift, and adapt to changing conditions in the marketplace. By focusing on people as the solution, the best companies unleash strengths and thus are able to overcome the most challenging circumstances.

Now if our aim is to create such an organisation, what are the implications on how we organise ourselves? An even better question is how do we determine what needs to change?

Well, this is interesting. Once we have our Why, and this is communicated clearly and effectively so that everyone has connected with it in a powerful and personal way, then it acts as a North Star for everything that occurs in and around that business. It provides a guide for decision making, as well as what policies and procedures should be in place. It is easy to look at all the organisation’s ‘Hows’ (e.g. strategy, values, plans, intellectual property, ways of working etc.) and ‘What’ it does (i.e. the products and services it offers to the outside world) and ask a couple of very profound questions:

  • ‘Do they all support us to fulfill on our Why?’
  • But even more challenging – ‘Do they all not just support us, but are they the best waysto fulfill on our Why?’
  • And the killer question – ‘Well if not, why are we doing them?’

We call this type of enquiry a Why Integrity Audit, to check that everything that is being done inside the organisation is in integrity with the purpose, cause, or belief of the organisation. From our experience, we find that somethings need to be stopped, others reshaped, some accelerated, and some new things started – and with the guidance from the Why, these decisions become blatantly clear…

This is illustrated in this short article The Goosebumps Test.

But here’s the real win when you do this for your team, department, or organisation: You get to manage less and lead more. So it’s more fun! You don’t need to check up on people so much, as they are more clear about what’s really important and in which direction we’re all heading. What’s more, we find that decision making can be passed lower in the organisation – lower and closer to the action.

When we look at how we employ people at the moment, there is a lot of management and a lot of rules and policies. These do not seem to be sourced from enabling people to be the best they can be (i.e. leading them), but to ensure we all comply and follow rules (i.e. to manage us). Imagine what it would be like if we all knew the cause we were working towards; if we only invited people to join us and worked only with people who believed what we do and we designed our rules and policies to unleash everyone to do their lives’ work. What would that make possible?