Post by Brian Hickling
Yesterday the now ex-FBI Director James Comey's testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee as it investigates into possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections and whether or not the President of the United States obstructed justice. I am not going to go into the details of which most people are well aware.
I would instead like to point out the importance of a clear and well-defined purpose for an organization. At my company Barn Raisers Strategic Inc., we work on a number of different strategic challenges for a variety of organizations, from government and private enterprise to not-for-profits and charities.
Every session we put on eventually discloses how strong or weak an organization's purpose is. It's brand essence. It's promise. It's value proposition.
As I watched James Comey’s testimony something struck me as a very important lesson.
In his comments to the Senators, Comey very clearly stated the FBI's purpose. He said “The FBI's mission will be relentlessly pursued by its people, and that mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States. No warm and fussy or interpretive words used here. He didn’t say “We get to the bottom of things”, or “we get it done”. There was not a polished ad version like “Impossible is Nothing” or “Just Do It” here.
"To protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States" is the FBI’s purpose.
However, for me, it was Comey’s statement that the FBI’s purpose would be relentlessly pursued by its people that caught my attention. Relentlessly pursued. Why? What drives the employees of the FBI to do their work with relentlessness. What drives this passion?
I think the passion of his former employees is founded on two things.
One, the clarity of the organization's purpose. Everyone in the entire organization understands the same goals, values, and mission. They come to work every day to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.
Second, is the sense of "WE" united by a purpose. A team bonded by a common cause and goal is an unstoppable team. The “WE” in this case is not even the FBI itself but America. The defense of America. You can’t get a higher social purpose for an organization in the United States than the defense of America. That’s the big “WE.”
Comey eluded to the big "WE" in his description of the FBI by saying that its purpose was to “protect the American people” and in doing so also described the FBI not just as a government organization, but as a social purpose organization.
The FBI’s purpose is not a communication layer or a tab on the website. It’s part of the fabric and the foundation of the organization. They attract professionals that could most likely make more money in the private sector but because of their social purpose, they chose to work there. They attract people who want to make a difference. Who want to work with an aligned team. People who want to matter to the big “WE.”
It's the team alignment that makes their purpose truly come to life and powerful. An organizations raison d'être should not wither away with the departure of any one person or leader. Apple is still together and doing well even after the passing of Steve Jobs because of it.
Comey helps us understand the power of having a strong purpose as he very personally describes his career to the Senators, “I worked every day with the FBI to help make that great organization better, and I say help because I did nothing alone at the FBI. There no indispensable people at the FBI. The organization's great strength is that its values and abilities run deep and wide.”
The question I ask you the reader is would you be able to say the same thing today about where you work?
“I worked every day at the __________ to help make that great organization better, and I say help, because I did nothing alone at the __________________. There no indispensable people at the ____________. The organization's great strength is that its values and abilities run deep and wide.
Having a clear and well-defined purpose is just as important for an Ice Cream shop or a not-for-profit as it is for Apple or the FBI. It aligns everyone in the organization. It promotes teamwork and collaboration. It attracts the best people. It allows peer compliance and standard bearing. It’s good for your customers even if your customers are the entire population of the United States of America.
An organization's purpose, like Comey pointed out, belongs to the entire company. It doesn’t just guide the leadership, it guides everyone. Your clients, your new hires, your philanthropy, your integrity and ultimately your success.
Mr. Trump might have fired the director, but he did not get rid of the FBI's purpose or the relentlessness in which it will be pursued.