I love purpose and have blogged about it here previously.
Yesterday the local newspaper published my letter to the editor about the purpose of the university. I stated that my university has not published a statement of purpose, which is not unusual, but that ours might be similar to that of the University of Texas at Austin, which is “To transform lives for the benefit of society”.
I got an e-mail from a colleague I respect a lot that read my letter and suggested that our university actually has published a statement of purpose. Well, that is NOT a statement of purpose. It is the classic mission statement that describes the what, where, and how of what we do but does not provide a concise statement of why we do it.
I hate mission statements. Mission statements are the currency of bureaucrats and managers. The only people they inspire might be the small, select group of people that helps to write them. They are almost completely worthless as a guide to daily behavior.
Mission statements are buried in planning documents or gather dust in plaques on the wall.
I love purpose. Purpose is the currency of leadership. When people clearly understand why what they do (i.e. their mission) matters, then the purpose becomes self-authorizing and can serve as powerful guide to daily behavior.
Purpose lives in the hearts and minds of those that serve and are served by them.