Living our shared purpose

In my recent post ‘Creating a shared purpose‘ I wrote about how my team worked to create a single, shared purpose, that can guide us all in our work – both as individuals and as a collective.

As a quick recap, our shared purpose was:

At our very best, we inform & learn from users to influence & drive change in services, knowledge & behaviour.

We do this to help our colleagues, the people who live in the borough, Members & our key partners.

This supports and helps users to influence & control their services which are shaped around their needs.

Although it was difficult creating a single, shared purpose that everybody could buy into, could own and could feel a connection to, in hindsight, that was actually the easiest challenge.

The hardest part was actually trying to live our shared purpose.

Actions 1: Asking ourselves some tough questions

It was okay writing down why we do what we do, but actually using this as our ‘North Star’ to guide what we did and we did it was really difficult. It meant that we had to look at what we did and how we did it – as individuals and as a collective – and evaluate whether it was in line with our shared purpose.

So we asked ourselves several questions:

  • We’re the tasks, priorities and projects that we had done for many years helping us to live, breathe and be our purpose?
  • Was there things that perhaps we were not doing, but if we did do them would help us live, breathe and be our purpose?
  • Was our environment, culture and internal processes – both those that are written and those that are just known – helping us to live, breathe and be our purpose?

Well, it turns out that they were hard questions to answer.

Yes there were tasks, priorities and projects that we were doing which did not help us live, breathe and be our purpose – and there were some that did.

Yes there we’re things that we were not doing that would help us live, breathe and be our purpose.

And yes, there were things in our environment, culture and internal processes that stopped us from living, breathing and being our purpose.

So realising this, we started on our second action.

Action 2: Making hard choices

Realising that there was a range of things within the team that would stop us from living, breathing and being our purpose meant that we had to consider what we could do about them.

Could we stop doing the tasks, priorities and projects that didn’t fit? Could we start doing things that would help? Could we change our way of working?

And we soon understood that, although some of these would be difficult to do, a lot of this was actually in our control.

There were some things that we couldn’t change – a few projects and tasks that we had been instructed to do from above – but there was also a lot that we did because we chose to do them.

So we looked at all the tasks and we were doing and decided do they stay. We looked at working out what was missing and decide how we would fill that void. And we started to change the processes and culture in the team with some simple choices.

Action 3: Being our purpose 

By letting some of the things go that didn’t help us be our team purpose, we created gaps in the team that enabled us to take on new things that did help us. New things that would benefit not only us, but as our team purpose statement says, also our colleagues, our leadership tream, and the people who receive our services.

We also created a new mindset for how we worked. Being a support service for lots of internal teams – alongside being a customer facing service – we decided that we should change from being a team that just does tasks for our colleagues, into a team that sells our services to our colleagues. A team that they would be willing to pay for. A team that they would choose to use rather than need to use.

So we started to look at everything we did and see them as mini projects. Projects with clearly defined timescales. Projects with clearly defined resources. Projects with clearly defined outposts. Projects with clearly defined beneficiaries so we understood who the audience – i.e. the user – was so we could base our decisions and actions around their needs.

And to help us do that we started to use a new product called Kickoff Kit from the people at SYPartners. This tool helps us think through those useful questions, and ensure that everyone on the team and our customers had the same understanding and expectations from the piece of work.

And then, to help drive our work forward, we changed our internal way of setting priorities by redesigning our Team Work Programme. More about that in the next post.

We were starting to live, breathe and be our team purpose.

We were still moving forwards to becoming a great team.

We were making progress.