Personal Finance

Find out why you do what you do

D. MURALI | Updated on April 23, 2011 Published on April 23, 2011

A mission statement usually says what you do and perhaps how you do it, but seldom does it say why you do what you do, says Jim Armstrong in Beyond the Mission Statement: Why cause-based communications lead to true success ( He frets that mission statements are often painstakingly written with impressive words that reflect honourable thinking, and therefore end up being longer than they need to be, and may not be a snap to memorise unless coerced by a performance review. In contrast, “a true cause doesn't need to be memorised; it just rolls off the tongue.”

Cause vs mission

To bring out the difference between cause and mission, the book offers many examples. For instance, a mission statement stating that our mission is to provide ‘a vibrant, caring, and safe learning community that enhances and empowers the lives of young people by offering optimal opportunities for intellectual, emotional, physical, and aesthetic growth,' can be captured in a cause expression, thus: “To make learning joyful.”

Once your business realises its true purpose and converts that purpose into a liveable, tangible principle, it becomes a beacon not only for telling your story, but also the benchmark for making key business decisions, the author notes. He assures that you will then be able to easily assess whether your modes of operation or your supply chain reflect and are inspired by your cause, or if they dilute or compromise your cause.

It anguishes Armstrong that for too long business has scoffed at deep conversations — such as what is involved in exploring the ‘why' — calling them soft, as against the hard part of making money. Alas, they have gotten it wrong, he rues.

Identity crisis

An interesting analogy described in the book is of relationships, where married people spend most of their years ‘busy' doing things — things that keep them from really getting to know what resides deep in their own hearts and in the minds of their life partners. “Eventually, 20 or 30 years later (or just two to three years later depending on the relationship), they decide it's time to define themselves not necessarily by all the what they have done in their lives, but why they did those things. Call it a midlife crisis or whatever, but it happens a lot. And when it does, the outcomes can be mild or extreme.” Likewise, when businesses ask the why question earlier rather than later, they reduce the propensity for an identity crisis, the author observes.

Urging businesses to clearly communicate their cause, especially when they realise that the business is a cause for good, Armstrong writes, “You will be amazed at how hungry your customers, employees, and community are for businesses to honestly connect with them. Such honesty inspires and creates a kinship that will stand all kinds of tests.”

Imperative addition to CEOs' desk.

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