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  • Writer's pictureTim Westall

Powered by purpose

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

April co-founder Tim Westall explains how and why we use tools to discover true purpose.

The most effective organisations are powered by purpose; an underlying 'why?" that meets a real customer need and is motivating and meaningful for staff.

This isn’t straight-forward. The conventional approach is to focus just on customers or what’s important to the team or the brand and what it stands for.

The result is often a single-minded purpose that might be generic, might exclude significant groups and be more ‘advertising strapline’ than substantive. Purpose isn’t as simple as this.

At April, we approach it differently. We consider all the legitimate stakeholders, both internal and external. They’re all powered by a ‘why’ but sometimes not quite the same one. So while you should be single-minded, it’s important to pay attention to nuance.

This can make for a more complex process but it will engage and bind-in different groups. You’re also more likely to reflect the underlying truth and constancy to be found in most long-term successful organisations.

A tool we like to use to discover purpose is the Japanese Ikigai framework, originally conceived to aid individuals in pursuit of their enduring ‘reason for being’. We’ve found it works well for organisations too.

The tool asks a team to consider:

  • What is your MISSION - something the world needs that you love

  • What is your VOCATION - what the worlds needs and that you get paid for

  • What is your PROFESSION - what you get paid for and what you’re good at

  • What is your PASSION - what you’re good at and what you love

When mission, vocation, profession and passion overlap, you’ve found your reason for being.

In our work with a private schools network, we took a historical and future-focussed perspective to help surface enduring reasons for being. It revealed four complementary elements of core purpose:

  • Striving for thought leadership in the theory and practice of education (what we love doing)

  • Education provision to a high standard and always improving (what we’re good at)

  • Access enablement for disadvantaged pupils (what the world needs)

  • Commercial return to stakeholders (what we get paid for)

The outcome was a more aligned leadership team and much better decision-making, with trade-offs previously tacit made more explicit.

Visit our how page to find out more about April principles and how we work.

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