Deploying siloed tactics does not equate to purpose-driven strategy. This is as true in purpose-driven strategy as any other. While there is potential to deliver social impact this way, it can slip easily into “special projects” that organisations do on the side and the public is savvy in recognising authenticity.
To ensure genuine – and sustained - impact, purpose must be seen as a long-term commitment that is well-defined and measurable, and embedded into an organisations operating model, culture, values, brand, products and stakeholder engagement. This means that a company’s purpose-driven strategy and corporate strategy should be one and the same. A number of key learnings illuminate how the most successful, high impact purpose-driven organisations achieved this:
1. Understand what value means to those you want to provide value to – value means different things to different people. To provide maximum impact, organisations need to understand what that means from the perspectives of those they’re built to serve. We advocate working collaboratively with key stakeholders and partners throughout the design and implementation of strategy to integrate stakeholder voices and ensure the business stays relevant and fit for purpose. While this isn’t easy - it requires higher up-front costs and can mean grappling with complex and contradictory perspectives on what value means - it is essential to truly unlock business potential.
2. Choose where you can make an impact – your organisation is unique; it brings capabilities and opportunities that others don’t. Your purpose-driven strategy should look to understand what you bring – and what you need to build – to have the impact that you seek. This might be your relationship with your customers, your core skills and capabilities, or your role in the sector. Challenge yourselves: is this our biggest purpose bang for buck? Are we best placed to play here?
3. Clearly articulate your strategy – leading purpose-driven organisations clearly articulate these choices. This goes beyond just clarity of mission – it also means being clear on who exactly they want to affect, when and at what stages, what outcomes they want to achieve and how they’ll measure them. They tell a coherent purpose story which emphasises their differentiated holistic value proposition and utilises data and evidence to invest strategically where they can make the most impact.
4. Measure the social impact that you’re making – to ensure consistency with and accountability to their purpose, organisations must embed purpose metrics and indicators into their processes, ensuring that both the good and the bad outcomes are tracked, assessed and communicated to stakeholders. This brings data to the debate, illuminating opportunities to accelerate positive impact and mitigate negative impact, and guides future decisions around where to allocate resources. Measurement should be ongoing and utilise both quantitative and qualitative measures to ensure stakeholder perspectives are incorporated.
5. Embed a practice of continuous improvement – high impact, purpose-led organisations utilise information to understand and improve performance and efficiency, learn new and better ways to achieve their purpose and influence future direction and approach. This is a continuous process that involves reviewing the collection of information to ensure it is sufficiently comprehensive, as well as the results themselves. In practice, this means embedding robust internal and external feedback loops for stakeholders and staff, understanding the metrics for continuous improvement, and coaching to embed a culture of continuous improvement.
How do you know if this is happening in your organisation? Based the Deloitte framework for purpose-driven strategy, we’ve outlined a number of questions you can ask about your organisation to indicate whether you’re on the right track:
I lead our Strategy & Business Design practice and our social innovation and impact services in New Zealand. My focus areas are operating model change, transformation of social services and human centred design. I help organisations transform their business through changes to people, process and technology – and to do this in a way that is collaborative, innovative and truly customer-centric. My passion is for bringing together individuals and organisations to address ‘wicked problems’ at multiple levels: changing systems to transform outcomes, redesigning services to be simpler and generate better outcomes, and shifting mind sets to focus on growth, innovation and impact. My work has included leading large scale organisation change with my clients, including redesign of social housing services, welfare payment services, accident compensation services and child care and protection services – through the stages of the design, prototype and implementation.