A medical manufacturing company headed into a transition knowing the stakes were high. A strategic acquisition would double their size from 200 to 400 employees.

To realize the strategic advantage getting the culture right was crucial. They began by defining the core of their culture; purpose (why they existed), core values (how they behaved) and vision.

Fast forward. How do you put the values and purpose into action?

The story of Tu:
Following the all company conversation about purpose, merger we launched leadership training for managers. Each participant was charged with identifying a change project to further the purpose To create a culture and products that improve people’s lives.

Tu, a machine operator titled his leadership project: “Not My Job.” He worked with 25 machinists from the two merged companies. Tu noticed an operator sitting by an idling machine and asked if he would wanted to learn to change the material. The operator replied, “That’s not my job!”

Tu, wanted to change this. He created and offered a training program for his co-workers. At first 2 volunteers came forward. Tu bought shiny blue folders for the training materials. He had them walk through the shop past other workers to a machine for embossing their names on the folder. Soon, people were asking “how can I get one of those blue folders?” By the end of 6 months Tu had over half the group cross trained on the equipment. When asked how he did it Tu replied:

“I helped people see that our purpose is to improve lives. It’s about the medical products we make, AND improving each of our lives. By working together we improve each other’s lives. WE learn and improve our chances to stay employed, provide for our families and educate our children. We improve our lives together. When we do the right thing, do it in an excellent way, we all enjoy a good life.”

We all want a Tu working for us. Tu believed his work had purpose and with no “positional” power, he led others to see their purpose as well!

Building a company on purpose requires a deep dive into clarifying who you are, why you exist and bringing it to the surface to live it out in alignment with what you do. The process is a deep dive into intentional formation of yourself and for your teams – all of which drive the culture.

The process is called SCUBA: A deep dive process to discover and align your purpose and values©

  • Set your Vision and Strengthen your Resolve
  • Commit to the journey
  • Unify everyone
  • Build community
  • Align everything

Set the Vision and Strengthen your Resolve
What is your vision of success? Does it include a purpose and values which are foundational to who you are? Setting the Vision and strengthening your resolve means they are more than words on a website. You have a vision and resolve to work your talk. Performance without Purpose is too small. Purpose AND performance anchor your success indicators. If you are making money and your culture is lackluster and disengaged, it won’t last long. If your culture is self-focused and lack performance you are heading for a different ditch. You need both; Performance and Purpose (P & P Company) are crucial.
Key Question: What are our core values, purpose and vision? Are we clear in words and actions?

Commit to the journey
As a leader, when you commit to the journey of becoming a P & P company, you make a promise, to yourself and to the people you lead. You promise to be intentional in how your leadership impacts and shapes the culture. Each decision, conversation and choice to invest in one thing or another creates ripple impacts. Doing this work as a theme of the year doesn’t work, it must be a long term commitment to a way of being. Making time for investing in who you are as well as what you do requires a commitment.
Key Question: ‘How are we demonstrating a commitment to Performance and Purpose?’

Unify everyone
The root of the word Unify comes from the Latin word “unificare” which means “make one.” Think of times when you belonged to dynamic and effective team. What made them great? What made them effective? Most likely, you shared a purpose; a deep motivation that served something outside of yourselves AND you had the right team to put it into action. For Purpose and Performance to live together everyone must own it, not just a few top leaders. This part of the process involves creating intentional times and process for engaging, listening and generating a dialogue with the entire organization and creating an inspired shared vision of the culture you are building.
Key Question: What opportunities do we make for people to become one? Where are we operating in silos vs one team?

Build community
Companies that invest in building a community of work vs just a paycheck will attract and retain all the top talent they can use. When people connect and form a work community centered in accomplishing a meaningful purpose you don’t have to measure engagement “you see it! It is crucial to develop the rituals and rhythms that support ongoing relationship building so people feel they belong to something special together.”
Key Question: Ask people two questions: Why did you come to work here? Why do you stay?

Align everything
The journey includes ongoing alignment of structures and processes. Harnessing your purpose in action includes everything from hiring to firing, on-boarding, compensation, performance systems and your strategic approach to the market and more. When who you are aligns with what you do people feel and see a deep resonance that is tangible in the way people treat each other, deal with difficult tension and go beyond their comfort zone to find a way to bring out the best in each other. Determine your dashboard with key measures that indicate when you are on track or straying from your course.
Key Question: Where are we experiencing the strongest alignments in our company? How can we build on them?

Research shows companies who invest in living their purpose and values outperform their competitors by 6:1 and more! Research: http://firmsofendearment.com/

Whoever tells the stories in the culture defines the culture.~ Dr. David Walsh “Who is telling the stories in your culture and what are they saying about why you do what you do?”

Cumulative Performance 15 Years 10 Years 5 Years 3 Years
US FoEs 1681% 410% 151% 83%
International FoEs 1180% 512% 154% 47%
Good to Great Companies 263% 176% 158% 222%
S&P 500 118% 107% 61% 57%


Sisodia, R., Wolfe, D. B., & Sheth, J. N. (2014).Firms of endearment: How world-class companies profit from passion and purpose. Upper Saddle River: Wharton School Pub


This article originally appeared in Manufacturers Alliance’s MA Insider publication, August 2015. You can view the original here.