Clarity of Purpose Is an Essential Element of Success
Summer holidays in the southern hemisphere are taken in December through January. So while some members of our truly international society in the northern hemisphere were enduring (or suffering) the cold and longer hours of darkness, I was enjoying a family holiday, swimming, fishing, bush walking, sharing meals, and doing some reading. It was a time for some light “whodunit” novels but also some thought-provoking stuff. I thought it was time I changed from my usual historical/philosophical fare to some forward-looking writings.
We are continually bombarded with bad news, doom, and gloom, so it was a change to read Megachange: The World in 2050 (from The Economist). This book, while acknowledging the limitations of futurology, presents researched-based forecasts of the world in 2050. It covers various issues that are highly relevant to CRS—demographics, health, science, social networks, equity (gender and income), culture, and globalisation—and includes a chapter titled “Taming Leviathan: The State of the State.” Overall, the tenor is optimistic, too optimistic for some who judge it to be science fiction and simply extrapolating current trends, but in my view it is a thought-provoking collection of essays.
“Taming Leviathan” is about how to ensure efficiency and control the growth of government and the state, a message of relevance to CRS. We must be continually vigilant to ensure we are an efficient, nimble organisation that is continually adapting to the rapidly changing environment. Many not-for-profit organizations are being challenged by falling memberships, lower volunteering, and (rightly so) members wanting maximum value for money. Your Board is committed to CRS being an efficient organisation, reducing waste, abandoning what is no longer useful, and delivering useful services through cutting-edge technologies. More social networking, an e-newsletter, e-posters, and so on are in the pipeline.
Cultural megachange is another factor confronting society in general that has implications for our Society. This is expressed as changing expectations of new generations (Baby Boomers versus Generation X versus Generation Y) and of course ethnic and national differences. We may value volunteering in different ways, but I think we would agree that we have a very active Young Scientist Committee that adds value for the membership. The Volunteer Recruitment Committee, a new committee, has the important task of developing strategies for recruitment of volunteers, for providing training opportunities and “volunteer career pathways” as well as reliable processes so that members can be directed to appropriate areas when they volunteer. We look forward to receiving and implementing this committee’s recommendations.
Finally, I would like to say something about our culture. Prof. Robert Burgelman (Stanford) has said, “Strategy without culture is powerless and culture without purpose is aimless.” Strategy is about “what” and “how,” and through the efforts of many we have done a good job in this area over the last few years. We have established our strategic plan with annual objectives and robust procedures. But what about culture? Some say that the core of an organisation’s culture is a clearly articulated sense of purpose. Clarity of purpose is a critical element of success.
We have a vision (“Visionary leadership in delivery science and technology”) and a mission (“CRS is an international, multidisciplinary society dedicated to delivery science and technology”), but there is a danger that these statements are simply words. To influence culture, purpose must be a deeply held shared belief that is articulated both within the organisation and externally.
Some say that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. We organise fantastic annual conferences, workshops, and symposia, publish books and journals, volunteer our time, and so on. Why? Because we believe deeply in the value and importance of delivery science and technology. Although we have this deep belief in common, we almost certainly have different reasons for our convictions. They may be altruistic, personal, or financial. For example, products of delivery science help people live higher quality lives, improve productivity, solve real-world problems, represent a fascinating science, provide a solid career, present an opportunity to make money, and so on.
I encourage all members to share “why you do it” (delivery science and technology) so others will “buy it” and benefit.