The Purpose Dance: Shared and Individual Beats at the Heart of Organizational Impact

Marc-Peter Pijper
Written by Marc-Peter Pijper September 03, 2023

My wife and I, accompanied by our friends, often enjoy attending music festivals. What unites us is our mutual love for live music and the incredible energy that these events showcase. However, our individual musical preferences do vary— some of us groove to indie beats, while others can't resist the pull of electronic rhythms. With this dual purpose in mind, we navigate the festival grounds: the collective joy of the festival experience and our individual search for the genres we love. This duality of purpose reflects the synergy of shared and individual purposes within an organization.

Envision purpose as a symphony, composed of two harmonious yet distinct movements— the overarching, unifying organizational purpose, and the individual purpose.

Organizational Purpose: The Unifying Rhythm

An organizational purpose functions like the rhythm of a music festival, setting the tone, tempo, and ambiance of the event. In the context of business, it serves as the guiding star steering an organization's strategies, decisions, and culture. It's the reason the organization exists beyond just making a profit. Studies show that purpose-driven organizations tend to perform better financially, have more engaged employees, and are more innovative.

Take, for instance, Patagonia, the outdoor apparel company. Its explicit purpose is a powerful example: "Build the best products, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions for the environmental crisis." This bold purpose not only molds their strategic direction but also draws individuals who are passionate about environmental conservation. Patagonia's commitment was further underscored when its founder and owner, Yvon Chouinard, declared last year that all profits would be directed towards combating climate change. The inspiring motto, "The Earth is Our Only Stakeholder," encapsulates this decision. Frankly, it's hard to conceive of a purpose statement more impactful and meaningful than this.

Individual Purpose: The Personal Tune

Each festival attendee, akin to every employee, carries a personal melody— their individual purpose, embodying their personal motivations, passions, and interests. It's about finding meaning in their daily tasks and aligning their work with what they believe is important.

The Significance of the Personal Melody

While the rhythm of the organizational purpose creates a shared sense of direction, the melody of individual purpose gives meaning to each employee's work. In this context, the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) imparts valuable insights. Crafted by psychologists Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, SDT posits that individuals are most driven when their needs for competence (feeling effective), autonomy (exercising control), and relatedness (forging connections with others) are met.

When employees perceive their daily tasks as ways to demonstrate competence, exercise autonomy, and nurture meaningful relationships, they find personal purpose. When this individual purpose aligns with the organizational purpose, it benefits both parties — organizations gain engaged and productive employees, while employees find fulfillment and purpose in their work.

Syncing the Rhythm and Melody

Creating an environment where the rhythm of the organizational purpose and the melody of individual purpose harmonize is pivotal. This is where the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model plays an important role. The JD-R model, developed by Arnold B. Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti, suggests that job characteristics can be categorized into two areas:

  1. Job demands, requiring sustained physiological and psychological effort and linked to certain physiological and psychological costs.
  2. Job resources, which are functional in achieving work goals, reducing job demands and their accompanying costs, or fostering personal growth, learning, and development.

Within the context of purpose, the JD-R model underscores the necessity for organizations to strike a balance between job demands and the resources provided to employees, enabling them to fulfill both their organizational and individual purposes.

“Envision purpose as a symphony, composed of two harmonious yet distinct movements— the overarching, unifying organizational purpose, and the individual purpose.”

Job crafting can play a pivotal part in this equation, allowing employees to reshape their roles to better align with their skills, interests, and passions. Such a process can elevate job satisfaction, engagement, resilience, and performance. Embracing a purpose-driven organizational framework like Holacracy provides your organization with a clear framework for roles and responsibilities, while simultaneously giving employees the freedom and autonomy to align their roles with their individual purposes.

To sum up, the harmony between organizational and individual purposes is not just an inspirational mantra; it's a crucial factor for motivation, performance, and overall well-being. So, whether you're swaying to indie rock or dancing to electronic beats, always bear in mind: it's the purpose that makes the performance truly meaningful.

Written by Marc-Peter Pijper
Marc-Peter Pijper
I work at Viisi. With our philosophy ‘People First, Customers Second, Shareholders Last’, we offer a workplace that enables everyone to work on the best version of themselves.
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