A big Purpose signpost stands against the sky, giving direction

“What’s Your Purpose?”

I recently saw this slogan on what appeared to be an empty cardboard drink carrier lying around on the break room counter. Intrigued, I picked it up for a closer look. It turned out that some of my devs had ordered Smoothie King from DoorDash that afternoon, and that existential question was on the smoothie carrier. I thought to myself, “Wow, what a great catchphrase. Simple, thought-provoking, and universally applicable.” I grabbed a pair of scissors, cut a square around the words, and took my new placard back to my desk. I stuck it on the back of my monitor arm by using a USPS label that says “Cremated Remains” (don’t ask — I have no idea why we have these around the office, but it was easier to find than the tape). The question is there now along with my pirate eyepatch and the rest of my monitor arm bric-a-brac.

Travis's desk includes bric-a-brac and a question about purpose

Who needs taste when I’ve got variety? 

Now I see that little reminder every time I walk in my office, and I stop and ask myself that question frequently. “What’s my purpose?”

My answer always revolves around value.

As a leader in a small organization with a lot of things going on at any moment, I have a long task list that changes constantly. The exercise of answering “What is my purpose?” however, helps me focus on what’s really important. It motivates me to get things done. It challenges me to evaluate the value in what I’m about to do and often changes my priorities. Like now, for example. I walked into my office 20 minutes ago, planning to work on a couple of estimates for development work specs from prospective clients. Instead, I’m writing this post. My purpose, right at this moment, is to bolster my company’s digital marketing effort. I’m going to do that by sticking to the deadline I gave to the rest of my management team when I asked all of them at our stand-up meeting last Monday to draft a blog post. Why? For content marketing and SEO, but more importantly, because I want everyone in this company to have an opinion, or an interest, or a viewpoint, and to share those thoughts with the world. I want the people at BitLoft to think about their purpose, both as Lofters and as humans in whatever other roles they fill.

All of which leads to a larger discussion, as we as a company work to define our collective purpose. Our projects cover a range of domains — managed IT services, creative design, web and app development, and game design. Daniel Pink posits in his book Drive that human motivation is largely intrinsic and depends on three primary factors:

Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose

(I realize this has been dogma with the enlightened management sect for nigh on a decade now, but bear with me.)

Autonomy and Mastery, to me at least, are no-brainers: Give people some freedom to choose what they work on at least part of the time and make sure they have resources and opportunities to max their skill stats. Creating Purpose, however, can be more elusive, especially as roles become more complex and span multiple project and functional domains. Is my purpose to continue building a tech consulting portfolio? Or is it to innovate the next Musk-worthy moonshot? What about team engagement and retention? Should I focus on boosting revenue? Or controlling costs? Do we invest in technology or people? Guns or butter?

These are typical management insomnia-inducers, on which reams have been written, and at least some of which dip below the scope of an organization-level Purpose. My point is that these are illustrative of the kinds of mutually exclusive choices that face operators at all levels.

How to choose? Pick what adds value. That’s my purpose. Do what adds the most value for the organization, the clients, or the stakeholders. “Value” sounds tricky at first because it seems to be either profit-driven or unclear and ill-defined. It’s really not, though, especially if the tone at the top is clear. Our best and brightest know what’s valuable.

  • Does it help execute and push something across a goal line? Valuable.
  • Does it increase trust, either between management and team or public and business? Value-add.
  • Does it save time? Value.
  • Does it solve a problem? VALUE!
  • Does it distract, divide, or detract? Not valuable.

If you’re not sure, ask a five-year old.That’s about the level of analysis I recommend 90% of the time.

If the team is clear on what adds value, and we are united in that pursuit, then I submit we’ve taken a long step toward a unified Purpose, no matter how dissimilar our individual component tasks or diverse our projects may be.

Clearly, my dev team members don’t find Purpose in cleaning up their smoothie cartons from the break room, but maybe I can sell them on adding value.

 

BitLoft would like to help you find YOUR purpose for web dev, digital marketing, and game dev. Contact Us today to find out how we can help. 

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