Purpose: an Ally in Decision Making

Having a purpose compels us to make an effort, in the hope that our effort will reap rewards in the long run. Purpose needs to be part of our decision-making process, assimilated into our nervous system. Companies and individuals must ensure that their inspiring statement of purpose is not completely detached from their everyday reality.

It is the managers’ duty to contribute to the effectiveness (doing the right thing) and the efficiency (doing it well)—both short and long term—of their companies as well as their lives. 

The great contribution of purpose, both at work and in our personal life, is to provide the why in our decision-making mechanisms, and instill long-term effectiveness into the priorities that shape our decisions. Let’s dig a little deeper… 

A decision should involve five elements with a logical sequence that might look something like this: 

  • It starts with the what.  Success with this element influences effectiveness in the short term.
  • Next comes the why of the decision. The why brings purpose into decision making. It acts as a filter to ensure that the what makes sense. Having a legitimate why is key for long-term effectiveness.
  • Then, it is good to focus on the when; the time frame for executing it. The decision about the when is very dependent on the decision about the who. The when has a more direct influence on effectiveness in both the short and long terms. 
  • As mentioned before, the who goes hand in hand with the when. That’s because people have varying levels of availability and capacity for execution. Being right about the who element bodes well for long-term efficiency.
  • The last element is the how, which has the biggest impact on efficiency in the short term. 

Logically, the internal consistency of these five elements increases the probability that the decision and its execution will translate into effectiveness and efficiency in both the short and long terms. That enables us to deliver results, while also transforming our companies in line with market demands. 

Businesses and individuals alike tend to prioritize the short term with an emphasis on the what and the how, to the detriment of longer-term considerations such as the why and the who.

Bringing purpose into decision-making mechanisms helps balance the short and long terms in an organization and in people’s lives. Ultimately, the long term does matter. Just think: Today is the future created by my decisions from yesterday. Today’s decisions shape my future. 

Joe Robles, former CEO of the American insurance company USAA, said that a leader’s most important job is to connect people to their purpose. To fulfill that duty within the company, the process must first be successfully experienced on a personal level.