Purpose and appreciation

Building a culture is hard. This is so because of two reasons. First, there seem to be so many other things that need to get done. And, second, it isn’t clear what you should focus on. There seem to be way too many factors that go into building a culture anyway. While both are true, we all know that there are ways to simplify seemingly complex problems. And, my attempt at simplifying culture building is to simply focus on purpose and appreciation.

Dan Pink’s excellent book, Drive, beautifully synthesized human motivation to 3 ideas – autonomy, mastery and purpose. I’ve begun to believe that it is missing a fourth – appreciation. We care about being appreciated. A lot. There’s a saying that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. And, I’d hazard a guess that the managers who people want to leave are often managers who don’t appreciate what their people do.

So, why leave out autonomy and mastery in culture building? As an organization grows, I think it is hard to emphasize autonomy and mastery. Autonomy can get in the way of process. And, process becomes critical as we grow to ensure a consistent experience to customers. Balancing between autonomy and process isn’t easy and is a constant struggle for mature organizations. So, I think it is something that needs to be solved for by managers and leaders at an individual team level.

As far as mastery goes, I think it makes sense in some contexts and doesn’t in others. For example, companies work hard to allow for internal movement so people don’t feel stuck in certain careers. Certain career paths may be viewed as stepping stones to others. Again, I think of mastery as something we work on a manager and team level. In some teams, mastering the craft should be the key focus. And, in others, it should all be about gaining relevant skills and moving onto do other things.

My gut says that if we can focus on purpose and appreciation in our organizations and homes, we’ll be able to solve for most of the problems that culture helps solve. And, while more organizations are attempting to do better with appreciation, most are a long way away from improving the sense of purpose.

5 thoughts on “Purpose and appreciation”

  1. > Building a culture is hard.

    You can’t really consciously shape or build a culture, except in very young and small organizations.

    > So, why leave out autonomy and mastery in culture building?

    You asked this, and answered it later:

    >[P]rocess becomes critical as we grow to ensure a consistent experience to customers.

    The reason is simple: once an organization is largely process driven, the vast majority of employees are commodities. There’s no value in mastery, as that requires times and money, and autonomy is not needed because the process is largely self driven. Additionally, once the process is established, there’s no requirement to know the purpose, people just come in, do their job,and go home, without thinking about the bigger why.

    I’m a little jaded against large organizations, but this is something I’ve observed in my career. While I don’t like it, I also know there is some value in it, if you’re the kind of person who finds purpose outside of his career.

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