Suzie Lewis has worked in large organizations for a long time and has run international transformation programs. She talks to us about: Why do we go to work? How does organisational code get in the way of a meaningful purpose? How can you have a sense of purpose at work?
Why do we go to work?
[0:51] Too often, the answer to this question is to make money or to be able to live. People with this mindset go because they are motivated to get paid. There’s no sense of engagement, purpose, or meaningfulness of why they’re at work. When work becomes a means to an end, motivation and engagement are low. There’s a scale of answers to this question and this is one end of the scale.
The other end of the scale has people who love what they do and want to make a difference. Suzie’s mother was a successful surgeon and for 40 years she said everyday:
“I wonder what I will find at work today!”
When Suzie wakes up she has thoughts like: I wonder what change I will make today. I wonder who I’ll meet today. I’m going to meet loads of different people and situations and I love that.
What gets in the way of having a purpose when we go to work?
[4:02] Usually, organizational culture can get in the way. This includes the codes of the culture, how the system recognizes people, and how the system works. You can very easily have a purpose statement and values that are built within an organization, but organizational culture can cause people to work in silos.
Organisational culture can make people feel that they cannot fulfil their purpose.
What are some of the codes of the organizational culture that get in the way?
[4:58] The top level of Edgar Schein’s model, what he calls Artifacts is essentially the dress code and “How things are done around here.”
It’s things like where you go for lunch, what time you go for lunch, with who you go for lunch, who you are seen with, how busy you are, whether you an assistant and everything has to go through the assistant because you are too busy, whether you have a company car, etc. There are lots of different definitions of codes of culture.
“Culture is the way you think, act and interact. They become implicit codes in the organization that indicate what level you are and, therefore, what freedom you have and the way you can influence within the organisation This in itself can squash purpose and creativity.”
Forbes has a program on top people under 30 in business. That demographics is massively linked to purpose. They want to make a bigger impact, want to give back to the society, and want to do something more meaningful for themselves and for the society.
They get demotivated by organisational SILO’s and when good ideas cannot be taken further due to things not related to the purpose, like organisational codes of culture that get in the way. i.e. that level where you are and who you can communicate to.
Sometimes, people who are extremely experienced can get quite cynical with people who are under thirty and come in fresh with lots of ideas. What do you think about that?
[7:32] We need to be careful not to get stuck in generational stereotypes. However, it is about age because they’ve been in that organization longer, and however much we like to think that we stay out of the mold of an organization, we do get conditioned by our place of work.
“The real difference is this generation will not spend a long time in an organization if they don’t feel it fits.”
I had three people yesterday tell me that the biggest challenge within their organization to reach the vision is organization politics.
[10:58] That links very much back to the two discussions we’re having: one is about purpose and one is about the way the system operates. I think that those two ideas need to work together for organizations to be able to transform sustainably.
The younger generations DARE more because for them it’s their way of thinking, so why should they not bring that to work.
When you get grassroots momentum like that then you get a mix of ages. Grassroots momentum is great for viral change. That can create sustainable change up to a certain level.
People who have a purpose will push away the normal, standard way of doing things and get them to evolve.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to people who want to come from a sense of purpose to work?
[12:44] There is fear in organisations and there is more courage than fear. So,
Dare. Dare to do what you want to do and dare to suggest things that are outside of what exists today. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.