Clarity of Purpose

Do you have clarity of purpose in your job, your projects, your teams, your committees? I’m seeing more and more that lack of clarity in purpose is a very common problem, and one that frequently goes unnoticed until things are in a very bad state.

Why don’t we pick up on this? Human nature certainly has a part in this. We go through life being told what to do without being told why. Some things need to be done on trust- trust that the person giving the direction understands the purpose. If they don’t, then the problem can begin. Another problem is that I don’t believe we’re a community of Wallys. We like to be doing something, we like to be productive, and we like to have a purpose. Therefore, if we haven’t been given one, we’ll probably make one up. Unfortunately, in a team setting, my perception of purpose may differ from my teammates, which has the potential to create tension (there’s good tension and bad tension, but that’s a subject for another day). My teammate and I may have the same perception of purpose, but that may be different from someone outside of the team. That’s an even more dangerous situation, because now the team thinks they are doing good work, but the perception of an outsider is exactly the opposite.

Take my job: enterprise architecture. Most EA’s I know, myself included, would consider themselves big picture thinkers. Our purpose, however, is not just to establish strategic direction, but to ensure that strategic direction is followed. If all we do is create Visio and Powerpoint, and don’t also include planning, communication, and mentoring, are we success? All of the outsiders may talk to an enterprise architect and walk away thinking that person is brilliant and has a great vision, but if their purpose is also to get the organization there, and the organization isn’t moving any closer, that’s a problem.

Finally, I think it’s very easily to lose sight of our purpose as we get bogged down in the day to day efforts. It’s important to go back and review your purpose on a regular basis and make sure you’re staying on track and completing all aspects of it, and if not, seek help. Get a mentor or coach, recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and take the necessary steps to do it. If the current path isn’t working, something needs to change. If you don’t change, neither will the outcome.

FYI: I’ve signed up for Twitter. I’m somewhat skeptical about it, but I figured the only way of understanding whether its worth my time or not is to try it. My id is toddbiske, follow me here.

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