Getting Clear About “Why”

A new Korn Ferry Institute report reveals four science-based practices necessary for organizations to activate their purpose.

In a world that is evolving faster than ever before, one question is uttered repeatedly… “Why?”

We start to wonder why as children, signaling curiosity and a need to understand the daunting world around us. But the need to know “why” never goes away, even though sometimes we forget to ask. In fact, the desire to make meaning of the world—and to find our purpose within it—is intrinsically human.

Purpose is the reason why a company exists, conveying the soul of the organization. And the recent crises have, without a doubt, only magnified the demand and need for organizations to embrace their purpose. Yet, as companies face mounting pressure to act as good global citizens, many still find it difficult to articulate their purpose clearly, as well as operate successfully while honoring it. “For some organizations, purpose is the new strategy, as it redefines performance, transcends operations, and activates individuals’ deeper motivation,” says Jean-Marc Laouchez, President of the Korn Ferry Institute.

In our latest report, Getting Clear About “Why,” the Korn Ferry Institute uncovers the different types of organizational purposes that exist and how those purposes can, in tone and framing, impact business performance and organizational effectiveness. Furthermore, we offer four science-based practices that can help organizations define, articulate, and activate their purpose, and ensure that purpose is not only aligned with their business strategy, but also at the center of its culture.

Defining a compelling purpose may be one of the most important decisions organizations and their leaders are making today. And as more companies push purpose into the business agenda, there is an emerging demand for guiding principles and best practices in clarifying and realizing organizational purpose. But for companies to truly see the impact, they will need to live it every day, viewing every decision and taking every action through the lens of that purpose. “Leaders have a unique opportunity to reinvent their organization’s purpose as they emerge from the pandemic,” Laouchez says. “They can establish ‘a new why’ with all their stakeholders, and define the unique impact they want to have on the world.”

He adds: “Is there a more inspiring way to ‘get back to work’?”

Download PDF