What happens when people aren’t connected with your purpose?

A discussion about an organisations purpose and what to do if people don't align.

Authored by:

Glen Dunkley

Video Transcript

What if sometimes those purposes don’t align in terms of people don’t necessarily agree that that’s the purpose?

Stakeholders externally or internally, people in the organisation?

Probably more internally, yeah.

Yep. Yep. It can be a big challenge. It’s like a tug of war, really, isn’t it? My response to that is the organisation is there to serve the people that it’s supposed to support and help. And if we’ve got purposes, sometimes they could look completely different, but actually they’re the same thing, the barrier is the language we’re using to describe it.Yeah.

And so if you can, with that group, write down that language, and what does this actually mean and get it to its simplest form, and then those that aren’t agreeing with that, getting them to share why. Why aren’t we there? Because I really firmly believe everyone has valid thoughts and opinions to add to it. And actually having opposers that are, they’re opposing a direction you’re taking, is actually a really valuable thing because it’s helping everybody realise that, well, they might just be carrying emotional bias, connected to what they think the purpose is. But if something’s challenged, and it’s challenged, and that challenge is met, even if there is an adjustment, then you end up with a better result or rule. Now, if they’re completely opposed to that purpose, then the question’s not about the organisation changing the purpose for those people.Yeah.

It’s maybe those people that lived that organisation for that purpose.Yeah.

So I’ll give you an example, because this does happen in a lot of not-for-profits, you start off a small group, all getting close in the beginning, and you do the work and everyone really connected with that goal. But then you achieve that goal. You’re at that point where you think, “Yeah, we are”… and I’ll give you an example of one group I’ve worked with, we are actually recognised as the leading arts group in the region, we’ve achieved that goal. Yep.

And so what do we need to, this is more of a vision conflict, but vision and mission, or purpose conflict, who do we need to be now, what’s our purpose now because our purpose was to be the voice. Well that purpose hasn’t changed, but we’re recognised as the voice, so we don’t need to spend less time doing those things, and we need to think more about where we should be, and what our purpose should be as a result to make that, And for some people that meant more formalisation of governance, and different membership levels, they’re doing different things. They’re no longer doing an email newsletter out to tell everybody because the networks are established, and actually the networks are telling each other. So they did a really great job. But there are still some people saying, “But we still should be doing this newsletter. We should be taking a week a month doing this newsletter.” And that was really challenging for people to actually let go of this big thing that was seeming to add value, when it’s actually a grassroots initiative. And they did that at a grassroots level to get their networks established. And ultimately, there are some people that just did not connect with the new purpose, and it never reached them. And this was even some funders, some local councils that were funding it. It just did not connect. And that was certainly a risk that the organisation had to have a conversation about, what happens? We lose funding because the purpose to establish this network has been established. And we believe that we need to have a more strategic view of arts in the region. And I talked about that risk, and that was a risk that they accepted would happen, and it did happen. And I had to talk about strategies to engage at that level that they needed to be, but still support, but not drive the grassroots comms, and communications.

Excellent.

All right, how about that example?

Yes, it was brilliant! Yeah, great example. So I guess in sort of summary, the strategic planning point at the beginning of the year or the six months, whenever you do it, is a good time to maybe just give a minute, two minutes, whatever that, just a short amount of time to say, “Yup, are we all aligned with the purpose of this plan?” Yeah.

Yeah. Yep, and that’s an interesting one because from a community organisational perspective, members of the organisation, when they are accepted as a member, it’s actually a contractual relationship between the member and the organisation. And so as a result of that contractual relationship they now have with the organisation, they accept the constitution. And the constitution states what the objectives are, which is the purpose. And there have been people that have joined organisations, and they want to change the purpose. But it comes back to you accepted that, that that was the purpose. We review our purpose at set times, and naturally, we’ll sit, and we ask for feedback then, but yeah. But that purpose conversation, it’s such an interesting one, it really is. It brings a lot of people who are so tied to history and past, and have a perception about what the organisation should do. It does uncover some hidden motivations as well. It’s never comfortable, like strategic planning is just not a comfortable process. Challenging the status quo, oh my gosh!

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