Let’s outline how to approach this. When thinking about the mission, think about purpose. Begin the exercise with the following questions. This can be done prior to the session. Ask participants who are coming to the “Reason for Being” session to consider the following.
- What is the purpose of your organization?
- What would be lost if the organization were not in existence? What possibility would be lost if the organization went out of existence?
Begin the “Reason for Being” session by asking each participant to consider the following: Ask them to imagine that they have enough money to support their perfect life style. Then what reason for being and company purpose would be so enlivening and engaging that the participant would work at the company for no money? What purpose would be so worthwhile that they would stay fully engaged and working tirelessly for the organization?
With certain people I have seen this question only evoke resignation. They come back with there is no reason on earth beyond money that would keep me in this organization. They then add: “Are you kidding and on drugs?” This resignation is not a good sign for their participation.
With most people, this question makes them think. The question raises interesting issues and insights. One thing that I consistently see with the generation of late-twenties to mid-thirties is their deep interest in engaging in something that will make a real difference in the world and their community.
Again, how this can be incorporated into the reason for being is the challenge. Individual answers are flip charted and posted on the walls. Then everyone reviews. Participants ask questions of each other and give feedback.
Next, the large group divides into smaller groups of five to seven. The question presented is: “If the organization ceased to exist what would be lost?” If the group needs a scenario, tell them that the company was bought and the new owner simply mothballed the company. All employees were given a severance and are ok. What has the world lost by this organization no longer being in existence? The answers are again noted and the process is repeated five more times with related questions.
I have seen this exercise get the group to real depth and insight about the impact the organization has on its customers, employees, and communities. Provocative answers rise to the surface. Ask the groups to report on what they see from this exercise. Results again are flip charted, posted and read. Questions and comments are raised. At this point, themes are emerging.
The last part of the exercise is to form new groups. At this point I typically go for two groups. The groups synthesize the work that has been done and come up with their company’s Reason for Being that would touch, move and inspire them and other employees. Here is where I get involved.
It’s a good thing I have something to do given the very big bucks that I am charging. I work with the two versions to draw out the similarities and commonalities. After I have combined it to the extent that I can, I then ask for a group of volunteers who want to form and wordsmith the final version of the company’s reason for being. They will create the final draft. A leader and a date are selected when they will present their work to the entire group for comments and feedback.
The point here is not that it is word smithed to everyone’s satisfaction. The Reason for Being has to include all the relevant points so that the group aligns behind it and engages the rest of the organization in embracing and demonstrating what it says.