Purpose of the Purpose

January 31, 2011

An area often overlooked when building a team is to determine the purpose of the individual and how that works in conjunction with the team. Of course in order for this to be in alignment and effective the purpose of the team has to be clear, concise and well communicated to all individual members. Assuming your team is clear on its Why you can them move forward and sit down one on one with your team members to determine their individual Why.

The first step to doing this is to have each member of your team answer the following question: Why do I exist on this team?

Once this question is answered the next step is what we like to call “The Five Why’s“. Much the same way that children will continually probe and drill down into answer by asking “Why?” we do much the same. Ask the individual “Why?” five times and by the end of the fifth answer you will have the individual’s true purpose on the team.

You may find that what the individual believes their purpose on the team is differs greatly then where you believe their purpose lies. What is critical for alignment on your teams however is to ensure that you have selected the right people for your team. Be prepared for a significant deal of pushback while walking through this exercise as it takes a lot of work and will fundamentally challenge an individual’s view of their purpose. As a result you may find that you have more work in front of you to place people on the proper teams or to find people that are the right fit for your organization. However it is more worthwhile to put the extra effort into assembling the correct team than letting a project fail because your startup has the wrong team for the job.

The second step in this process is to whittle the purpose you determined through asking “The Five Why’s” down to a maximum of ten words. Work with your team members individually to determine if this is the most effective way that their Why can be explained and the significance that it holds for them.

In doing this exercise you have helped to create the template for how your team members are going to contribute effectively to the team while at the same time giving them a sense of purpose and self-worth.