Purpose, Mission, And Vision: What’s Most Likely Missing Is Purpose.

Everyone is – or at least trying to – run at full speed. Technology is racing forward and there is no slowing down. Disruption is everywhere. It may have been born in Silicon Valley and coined in Boston by Clayton M. Christensen, but it has now spread to every corner of the world and extended to every industry. To catch up with the breakneck pace of innovation, companies put frenzied efforts into becoming more agile, employing a human-centric approach to design, and creating labs to push the boundaries of industry definitions and the human imagination.

There is a big premium placed on business creativity, human empathy, and speed. But in the process of speeding up and deploying the latest technologies, companies forget why they are doing this in the first place. What they need is a purpose – any massive transformative effort requires one, and so does every company.

In any organization, purpose needs to engage all levels of employees and stakeholders. They need a “Mega Transformative Purpose” to drive a new level of human performance that goes beyond seeking profit. The blind pursuit of profit, after all, is simply a distraction.

An MTP needs to be more than just a large mission statement. Tesla and Google, for example, rely on this release of energy to power their organizations in order to achieve near-impossible goals. We like to use words like “vision,” “mission,” and “purpose” frequently – but do we really know what they mean and how they are similar or different?

These three words operate at different levels. A vision statement is a declaration of an organization’s objectives and should describe what type of business the organization is (and isn’t), both now and projecting into the future. Its aim is to provide a sense of focus for strategic planning, informing much of the business strategy and operational planning. It does not serve to answer the “why,” but is instead future-and goal-oriented.

A mission statement helps the company set a direction for its behavioral compass. An example would be, “To make the process of buying a life insurance simple, efficient, and stress-free.” This takes the outward focus further, not only emphasizing the importance of customer centricity, but also putting managers and employees in charge of constantly improving customer experience. It centers on the question: What are you really doing for your customers instead of selling a policy? Knowing what is needed is one thing, able to mobilize is a more difficult one.

So how does a company’s purpose differ from its vision or mission statement? An MTP statement is about finding a bigger reason why a company should exist. Steve Jobs’ version of purpose for Apple was: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” This motivating and engaging model connects with both the heart and the mind.

Every person, team, and organization needs a reason for being, or else we risk not knowing what we’re actually doing, let alone why we’re doing it. This matters even more when going big. Our purpose does not serve our mission – it helps us to create it.

Purpose is essential; it’s what gives people a reason to get up in the morning. And it’s those same people who are giving life to companies. After all, what is a company without people? And what are people without purpose?