In the previous article, we talked about the importance of defining a PURPOSE for the organisation in line with organisational PRINCIPLES. The next step is to identify a few CAUSES in support of the purpose of the organisation. You may decide to have only one, and that’s OK but don’t have too many – we would say between 1 and 3 is optimal.
CAUSES are not a replacement for a mission statement, because they do not cover everything that an organisation is doing – it is rather a means to create a focus on something significant that the organisation need to ensure happens! Often these causes are about making the world a better place for everyone, and sometimes it is about making the organisation a better place to work and earn a living, or about making it better to be a customer of the organisation. Causes do not need to be altruistic, but it makes it much easier of they are.
Our CAUSE or CAUSES start addressing some important HOW’s to the WHY we defined as our PURPOSE.
CAUSES do not address all the HOWs of our strategy, and they are not detailed HOWs. They rather address some aspects of how, at a high level, we can fulfil our purpose.
You may find it strange that we don’t talk about the detailed HOW in the strategic phase of Agile ADapT™ at all! For us, strategy for us is WHAT we will do in broad terms, to get to our WHY! Nothing more and nothing less!
It is not about knowing exactly how. We devolve detailed planning and action down the organisational hierarchy to the appropriate level where technical experts can deal with that level of detail!
We will not even have a clear picture of new products and services that will fulfil the requirements for gaps we identified or the needs of customers, or coming up with the next disruptive idea.
Because we believe that most workers today are knowledge workers, we employ them for their knowledge and technical expertise, leave them to get things done. The likelihood that board members have all the technical skills necessary to do detained HOW planning is virtually zero in any case. If you wanted to do that – all your functional specialists need to attend board meetings – imagine the chaos that will ensue!
CAUSES are rather internal, broad topics with related AIMS, translated downstream in the organisation into a set of related activities.
If PURPOSE is the WHY we are here – then CAUSE is the WHAT we need to do to get things done, and AIMS are what we need to get done.
So CAUSES do not address all the HOW’S. Also, what we need to get done do not always belong or support a superordinate CAUSE, the cascade may be any one of the following:
PRINCIPLES –> PURPOSE –> CAUSE –> AIM, or
PRINCIPLES –> PURPOSE –> AIM
So that makes it quite tricky – some of the AIMS of the organisation will directly support the PURPOSE of the organisation, and others will support CAUSES, that supports the PURPOSE of the organisation.
Rather see CAUSES as a high-level description of ‘programs’ or ‘initiatives’ (for the lack of better words), that will help us to bring about results that are in line with and underpin our PURPOSE.
CAUSES focus on MEANINGFUL CHANGE or TRANSFORMATION within the organisation that has a measurable effect on how customers experience the products or services of the organisation. CAUSES are about how we will make a difference!
Please note that a CAUSE cannot be something like “making money for our shareholders”, we believe it’s not even an aim, but rather be a result of the successful fulfilment of CAUSES or achieving the AIMS set by the organisation.
Toyota, for instance, has one big ’cause’ every year (they don’t use the word, but that’s what we mean by it). Despite all other activities that remain and continue, the whole group of companies focus on the fulfilment of that big thing that the entire group need to get right!
You most probably gathered by now that ADapT stands for Agile Digital Transformation – and we borrow quite a lot from Agile and Lean Practices and Principles.
We suggest that when you define a CAUSE that you use the user-story format (words in brackets are optional):
We will CAUSE, so that PURPOSE (or aspect of purpose) is realised (by target date).
So if you consider what we said about CAUSES so far, it should be clear that when embracing or taking up a CAUSE, the intent is to facilitate a permanent and different outcome than the status quo.
However, causes sometimes do not have finite results – and that is why we say the ‘by target date’ is optional. Sometimes pursuing a CAUSE is ongoing and never-ending endeavour.
Why make it so complicated you ask, if we don’t like the words vision and mission why don’t you replace the words with purpose and aims?
You will be correct in saying that PURPOSE is like having a vision, but it’s more. It’s grounded in the values of the organisation which ensures belief in, buy-in, and commitment in a way a vision statement could never do.
CAUSES however is not like a mission statement, AIMS would be closer to that.
CAUSES are the one thing that do not have a good conventional strategic equivalent.
For each CAUSE, determine what a successful outcome will look like, and how you will get there (these are AIMS). In the next article we will talk about AIMS.