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On Purpose

As our friend and colleague Paula Whylie gets ready to move onto pastures new, I asked her to do a final blog as a Do-Well band member and I am delighted to say she accepted! We will miss her unique approach and perspective that I think is really reflected in her contribution to this piece.

Before you make a brew and get ready to enjoy Paula’s writing I’d like you to think about why “purpose” is becoming such a large corporate and societal issue. At Do-Well we are enjoying doing lots more work these days on personal, organisational and community purpose with those we serve. This often also results in folk looking at values that underpin purpose and the behaviours that demonstrate it. Drawing from the work of another band member, Sheena McDonnell, my view is that values express what we say we do, and behaviours are the route to doing what we say. Done well, and in the context of purpose and vision in particular, the “say – do” gap is closed. This is vital work for the motivation of everyone committed to your cause / purpose.

Personally, I like the work of Keith Grint in getting us to think about long term wicked issues. Thinking deeply about these issues helps get to the core of what matters to us individually and collectively. It helps us think about the power of questions and how too easily we can try and jump to solution. Purpose finding is always about good questions in my view.

Grint’s work, when combined with Marshall Ganz’s organising questions below, really help get underneath the skin of what we are truly bothered about:

  1. Who are my people?

  2. What change do they need?

  3. What is our strategic goal?

  4. What is our theory of change?

  5. What are our tactics?

  6. What is our timeline?

Ganz’s work on Public Narrative also helps us think about why. Sharing this moves a sense of community into a constituency driving change and this make me optimistic about change that can be achieved through shared purpose.

Simon Sinek also offers some useful questions in terms of defining your purpose, when he talks about a just cause, he says that there are five criteria to have a just cause, to drive. It must be:

1) For something

2) Inclusive

3) Service oriented

4) Resilient

5) Idealistic

Hopefully these thoughts get you ready to settle down with Paula on purpose! Thank you, Paula, you will be missed.

Ken Perry

Paula on purpose

Whilst I can’t remember all the details of the shenanigans, I got up to with my brothers when I was younger, I can remember my mum asking, “have you done that on purpose?” to which we almost always replied in unison “no mum, it was an accident” reflecting back it was probably more unintentional than accidental, but we probably didn’t know what that meant at our ages. Now that I am older and wiser, I am confident I would answer such a question with a proud “yes! I did that on purpose” you see, these days I am more conscious about the things I choose to do.

Increasingly at Do-Well we are working with people and organisations to help them explore or re-examine their purpose. Understanding your purpose as an organisation is important as it helps keep everyone focused on why you exist. Clearly defining your purpose alongside your vision, mission, values and your success measures will help your team understand what it is you are trying to achieve and the role they play. Giving this clarity leads to independent thinking and decision making that supports the achievement of goals, personal and organisational growth.

I know that I have felt confused at times (and probably still do occasionally) at what the difference is between purpose, mission and vision, as these are the things which are meant to bring us clarity, I find it useful to break it down into simple language – Why, What and how.

  • Purpose – (A gap or injustice you wish to address) Why you exist, your reason for being.

  • Vision (always aspirational) – Your vision is what the world’s going to look like when you have achieved your mission, the difference you will make.

  • Mission – Explains how you will act on your purpose, what you are going to be and do.

As we continue to flex and change with the emerging landscape of workplaces today and in the future, we are asking is it time to revisit your purpose with your people? We think so.

The Office for National Statistics reports that in April 2020, 46% of people in employment did some work at home and of those that did, 86% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID – 19) pandemic – in other words, it is most likely that the 86% would still be in the office with the purpose, vision and mission splashed across walls, cups, pens, posters etc, these important messages always there in their peripheral vision. In the absence of these constant reminders what impact has this had on your workforce and their alignment to your organisations purpose? How many conversations have you had about this and who with?

We recently spoke to a CEO who whilst recognising that their people showed up daily to do their best and achieved some great outcomes, also recognised that there was an increasing amount of time, resource and skills being diverted on activities that did not align with the organisations purpose “we seem to have grown heads, arms and legs on areas we never intended”.

We shouldn’t be surprised if our people have lost sight of our purpose, in the not-so-distant past we were asking for a ‘all hands-on deck’ approach from our people to support with the fast-changing support needs for our communities. Perhaps now is the time to revisit your purpose, perhaps it’s changed, and you need to communicate this? Or…perhaps it hasn’t and a refocus is required?

As we constantly move forward it’s important that we pause to reflect on what we want to intentionally leave behind to make way for the stuff we intentionally want to pick up. This is the difference between mindful and mindless leadership – in this context I am talking about mindful leadership meaning, purposeful and intentional, mindless leadership is not about wreck-full behaviour, it’s about not being intentional or making conscious decisions.

Imagine the difference we could make if everything we did was on purpose.


We will be using this blog as a provocation for our upcoming cafes on:

22nd November, 5pm-6.30pm

30th November, 5pm-6.30pm

If you’re already booked to join us, we’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections on purpose that we hope this blog has prompted. If you haven’t yet signed up please do so quickly as both cafes are almost full. Please email and she will add you to the list.

If you can’t join this time or you’d just prefer a private conversation please get in touch with Ken directly via or 07971 594662.

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