Build Organizations Around a Long-Term Narrative

In order for an organization to be sustainable over the long term, it needs to have a long-term objective that it is working toward—a mission or vision that provides its reason for existence and animates all of its activities. Simon Sinek refers to this as the organization's "just cause": it helps orient the organization to longer horizons than the quarterly or annual report and provides its people with a sense of purpose. Moreover, a "just cause" helps serve as a first filter against unethical or counter-productive ideas. Narratives enable us to act decisively amid uncertainty; Sinek's concept applies this at an organization level and emphasizes how the "just cause," a kind of narrative, guides decision making and strategy. It may help express strategy as simple rules, as a kind of shorthand that guides action.

A just cause, Sinek writes, is never money; money is simply the means to achieving the end of the cause. To me, the "just cause" is almost an ideology; Sinek cites the example of Apple's positioning of itself against a "worthy foe" in IBM. Whereas IBM was conservative and business-like, Apple defined itself as creative and individualistic.

When organizations adopt Sinek's "infinite perspective," they need not fear disruption and change. Change is not something to be resisted, but rather something that can be leveraged to help advance the larger cause.

Some business challenges, like digital transformation, require a longer-term view to be viable.

The long-term vision is counter to a present tendency for organizations to focus on the short term. This bias toward the short term is related to the concept of presentism, a resistance to be able to think past the tyranny of the present.

One possible explanation for the bias toward the short-term may be an increased emphasis on quantification and metrics, itself a symptom of a decline in social trust.

Similar concepts include Jay Acunzo's notion of "aspirational anchors" and the "shared value" model described by Jim Kalbach, Michael Tanamachi, and Michael Schrage in the context of jobs to be done.


Related

  • Link

Citation

[[Sinek - The Infinite Game|Sinek, Simon. The Infinite Game. New York: Portfolio, 2019.]]


Backlinks