Clarifying the purpose and values and developing people is the way to future proof an organization in the world of fast changing technology, per Rachel Burr.

Future Proof your Organization by Focusing on its Purpose

To prepare your organization for the future, begin by finding your purpose and values.  Then put your vision into practice by developing a purpose-driven culture. These are the building blocks that will connect the dots towards a future proof organization for the long term, beyond technological trends.

There is no way to “future proof” our organizations any more than we can “future proof” our lives. It can’t be done. “Future proof” sounds like we need to create an impenetrable force field, and then change will bounce right off. That’s not how it works, and if we think it does, we won’t be ready when change hits us. What we CAN do is to be clear about who we are and what’s important to us, and then build on that solid foundation. Then, when change happens, we’re ready, and even if it knocks us off balance, it won’t knock us down. And when it does knock us down, we’ll learn, get back up, and grow stronger. So, rather than delude ourselves about being “future proof,” let’s look at making ourselves “future-ready.”

The future isn’t coming, it’s happening now. Every moment is different. Every day. Every year. The question is, How do we prepare ourselves to meet those challenges head-on?  It may be tempting to plunge into the latest trends in technology, management, or business development. There is always something new, and some of it is truly revolutionary. However, when we’re chasing the “next best thing,” how do we know it’s a thing that’s right for us? A better way to future-ready your organization is to start at your core and make meaningful decisions about what best serves your unique purpose and the culture that puts that purpose into practice. 

Answering the question, “Why are we here?” is a good place to start. What is our purpose that will help us define a compelling vision? What are the values and motivations that make our organization unique?  Those qualities are powerful tools to engage employees, inspire customers and stakeholders, and prepare us to be future-ready.  

Find your purpose to unlock potential

Purpose “embodies everything the organization stands for from a historical, emotional, social, and practical point of view.”  Finding purpose has the power to unlock “greater focus, more engaged employees, more loyal customers, and better financial performance,” according to a study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.  

“Why are we here?” leads to, “What do we stand for?” and “What makes us different?” These seem like straightforward questions on the surface, but to really answer them, we need to dig deep into our core. When answers come from generic words tossed around a conference room, a company will never be able to communicate what makes them truly unique. All companies want to be “nimble,” “customer-focused,” “collaborative,” etc. Duh!  Dig deeper. What does “nimble” look like in your organization? What does it mean? Why is it important? For example, “We are [what nimble looks like in our organization], so that [how that benefits our customers, employees, the world, etc.].  A future-ready organization will be able to clearly state what it stands for and why it exists.  

Do companies need to make money? Of course! But the P&L statement is not a compelling vision, and net revenue is not a lever we pull. Success metrics are the results of creating a compelling vision, aligning that with strategy, and executing on our goals. AND all of that is guided by a purpose and through a culture that either supports results or hinders them. So, do you want a compelling vision? You bet your sweet $$ you do. 

To create a compelling vision, we need to inspire people. We need to inspire our employees (people), our customers (also people), and our shareholders (yup, more people). What is a compelling vision? A compelling vision paints the picture of who we are (purpose and meaning), where we’re going (future destination), why that’s important (values), the impact we’ll have (results), and what we (people) will do to get there. When we create that level of clarity from our core, our organization is not just “ready” for the future, we create it.   

Future-ready your organization with a purpose-driven culture

When an organization puts its values into action, a purpose-driven culture is the result.  While many organizations believe they act in accordance with their values and purpose, objective data shows a gap between the ideal and reality.  For example:

  • Only 40% of employees feel strongly that their organization’s purpose makes their job important;
  • Just 39% of employees agree that actions are aligned with the organization’s values and direction; and,
  • A slim 20% of employees feel strongly connected to their organization’s culture.

When our organization’s actions and values are not aligned, people (employees, customers, shareholders) see it, feel it, smell it, taste it. This disconnect not only undermines a culture, it defines the culture, through which we drive our results. We may say we have values X, Y, and Z, but behaviors express our values far more than words. From our daily tasks to large scale change and everything in between. Our behaviors not only identify “how we do things” but “who we are,” and if our behaviors do not support who we want to be, we need to change those behaviors to change our culture

Communicate vision.  Aligning purpose and culture begins at the top.  Leaders must define a purpose that will inspire employees, customers, and stakeholders.  The vision should be the result of asking hard questions about what the organization values and what it stands for.  

Set the tone.  Leaders are advocates for the organization’s culture.  They need to communicate the organization’s purpose and values to inspire others, and they must define behaviors that will make the vision a reality. 

Prepare the people.   The first step to future-ready an organization is to help people continually update their skills (e.g., upskilling and reskilling) to be not only “relevant” but ready for change.  Upskilling refers to people keeping their skills up to date, while reskilling refers to moving people into positions that meet growth needs, both for the person and the organization. Developing future-ready skills goes beyond tangible technical skills to also building “critical intangible” people skills we need to successfully navigate change together.

Connect performance with purpose. We connect performance with purpose by showing people how their day-to-day work aligns with organizational purpose.  Leaders (also people) must not only talk about these connections, but model the attitudes and behaviors they promote to fulfill the organization’s vision.  

Empower people.  A future-ready organization must provide employees with guidelines and context for making decisions in line with the values and purpose.  Once in place, give people latitude to develop solutions.  Empowering decision-making connects people and their work to the guiding purpose to achieve the best results.  

In summary, when we identify our company’s unique purpose and clarify our values, we create a strong foundation on which to build a future-ready organization. From this foundation, we then create a compelling vision that aligns our purpose and values, and empowers the actions we all need to take to be ready for the changes to come and create the future we want to live.


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.