Running an organisation could be equated to steering a boat on the vast ocean waters. As the weather (and markets) change, one has to skilfully navigate the boat towards its destination. Traditionally, we tend to think of our organisations as a modern, efficient and capable boat that is sailing calm waters and gradually and predictably progresses towards its goals. However, as the outset of rapidly growing exponential technologies re-shapes the world as we know it, the sailors of the global economy often find themselves with an outdated boat heading straight into a true storm of market disruption.
In such conditions, we need a set of new tools to helps us both to improve our boats as well as to find the right path forward towards our intended destination. One of these tools, and probably the most important one, is a ‘compass’, helping the sailor, the CEO and the entrepreneur to make the right decision about where to steer their organization.
Salim Ismail in his book ‘Exponential Organizations’ (ExO’s), describes the idea of a ‘Massive Transformative Purpose’ (MTP) which is the higher, aspirational purpose of an organisation and serves as a guiding principle when any key decisions need to be made. Together with the 10 ExO attributes, it provides a solid set of tools to design an Exponential Organization and help it to better navigate the unpredictable waters of the world shaped by rapid explosion of modern technologies.
We are aware that many existing organisations have their own definition of what purpose, vision and mission means for them. Below, we have tried to lay out few basic distinctions of how we see these terms apply within a context of an Exponential Organization.
MTP differs from a mission and a vision statement in that it is always about the world outside of the organisation itself - it describes how the world will be different if the organisation succeeds. It is highly aspirational, unique to the organization and global in scale (hence the word Massive). It is also transformative in that it needs to bring an improvement to the status quo - it should be resolving an important existing problem or be based on an aspirational version of the future. Lastly, it should connect with the individual sense of purpose of both internal and external stakeholders and be broad enough to inspire a passionate response within the larger community of customers and beneficiaries of the organisation’s activities.
Please find below few examples of MTP, vision and mission statements drawn (and sometimes re-interpreted) from purpose, vision and mission statements of existing organisations. Each category also contains a key guiding question that needs to be answered to arrive at the correct statement:
Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) - Why does the company exist?
“To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” - Tesla
“To help individuals and businesses realize their full potential.” - Microsoft
“To make sustainable living commonplace.” - Unilever
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” - Nike
"Food with Integrity" - Chipotle
Vision - What does the company want to become?
“To be the world’s most successful and important information technology company” - IBM
“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” - Amazon
“To be the world’s most respected service brand.” - American Express
Mission - How does the company achieve its vision/purpose?
“We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.” - Amazon
“We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life.” - Unilever
“To provide the best customer service possible.” - Zappos
A well-defined MTP is short, crisp, clear and inspiring. It should not require too much additional explanation - it should be complete in its message, clarity and the emotion it provides to the audience. It serves as a guiding star in times of uncertainty and chaos and as an ultimate aid in guiding the strategic decisions, both for a rapidly growing start-up and for a thriving global company. It breathes life and focus into the remaining 10 ExO attributes and serves as a foundation for the Exponential Organization’s successful future.
Investing time and energy into defining your MTP becomes one of the most important activities you can focus on when aspiring to become an ExO. To paraphrase Michelangelo - “Every Exponential Organization has an MTP inside it and it is the task of the CEO to discover it.”