When creating or ‘improving’ some kind of product, business process or service, a question that will often crop up is that of purpose. We might (quite logically) ask what the underlying purpose of the thing is, and we might even be tempted to define some kind of measures around what ‘success’ looks like.
As outlined in my previous article, what ‘success looks like’ is very likely to vary depending on who we ask. It stands to reason that the perceived purpose (i.e. what ‘ought’ to be) is likely to vary too. Ask ten people what an insurance company’s primary purpose ought to be and you’ll get ten different answers—probably all of which are valid. (“Make money”, “protect policyholders”, “provide information so as to reduce risk” might be three possibilities). If the insurance company is to be successful an ‘accommodation’ 1 between a range of possible and valid perspectives is likely to emerge. Lurch too far to one extreme and the viability of the organisation comes into question. The challenge is understanding which perspectives are key—which form environmental constraints (e.g. regulation) and which others lead to strategic choices (e.g. which markets or customer segments to focus on).
These types of considerations apply at a more granular level also. Not only can we ask ‘what is the purpose of this company’ we can also ask ‘what is the purpose of this product/service/process’. Almost certainly the same types of differences in perspective will occur. Don’t believe me? Ask three people what the underlying purpose of the “Issue parking ticket when someone has parked illegally” process is (i.e. why it is done). You’ll likely get a range of opinions from “make money”, “increase safety” or “to ensure the rule of law is respected”.