Archive for April, 2023

What do you really do?

Wednesday, April 5th, 2023

During a visit to the NASA Space Centre in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said: “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy, what are you doing?” The janitor responded: “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.”

Is everyone you work with clear about what they are doing there?

Often the job description, even the key performance indicators which you will be judged by, are not the real reason you are there.

If the janitor at NASA was putting a man on the moon, not sweeping the floor, then what are you doing and how does it ladder up to the ultimate purpose of your organisation?

In any media agency the overall purpose is what?

To buy space for creative work that is made by a creative agency to appear in?

Not in my opinion, not since the end of the last century at the latest.

It is to consider the best way to communicate with people to achieve the client’s objectives.  That might be buying some space, it might be making a TV show, it might be smoothing the customer journey or a driving brand love by championing women in sport.

Is the point of your job the same as the functions you perform?  Unless you are a sole independent operator the chances are that you are performing those functions as part of a team which has a bigger purpose.  You should be very clear as to what that is.  Making profits for the company you work for, soothing your immediate boss, or helping your clients to grow?

The FT recently wrote a piece about “mattering”.  Apparently it’s the new management buzzword coming your way from the lofty environs of Davos.  Journalist Jemima Kelly (who is clearly irritated by this concept) writes: “supposedly, the ‘secret to management in a new hybrid-working economy’ is not honouring working hours, or making sure employees are achieving a proper work-life balance, or even just keeping in regular contact with them.  No, the most crucial thing is ‘delivering and cultivating’ something known as ‘mattering’ the belief that you are important to others in your workplace”.

She goes on to say (unarguably): “The way to make someone feel that they are valued is actually to value them”.

But mattering at work does go beyond feeling valued by co- workers, or a boss.  It is about whether you know that what you do matters to the overall purpose of the organisation. 

Deloitte have published some new findings that substantiate the importance of ensuring that everything you do ladders up to the purpose of the organisation. 

I joined the Deloitte Academy session in early March for a discussion of what they framed as “The purpose gap”.  From research of over 4,000 employees they found that purpose really matters to employees, but that only half of those surveyed see the organisation’s purposed mirrored in their workplace reality.  47% said they left for purpose related reason, and only 55% see their leadership reflect the organisation’s purpose.  There is a clear competitive advantage to be driven here, in terms of retaining and attracting talent. 

Environmental, social and governance funds have doubled in size in the last 7 years and manage $7.7trn in assets.  The Business Roundtable, a talking shop for American bosses, declared in 2019 that companies must place the interests of clients, customers and communities on an equal footing with shareholders.  Buttonwood in The Economist states “at the moment this is the only rational choice.”

Over and above this, IPA Effectiveness awards case studies have shown significant gains to be had in terms of outcomes for purpose related campaigns, including SK11, Barclays and  Mars.

In a high functioning team everyone knows their immediate and their ultimate purpose.  Its great to be appreciated for what you do, it is even better to know that what you do matters.