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"Where Are We Going, and How Do We Get There?" -- The Directionless Stall

Mar 1, 2008
"We're lost. But we're making good time."
-- Yogi Berra

Encountering an irresistible force (such as a better way of operating, a new type of competitor, or changed customer needs) can be a great benefit to an enterprise. The shock can help everyone realize that the enterprise's purpose needs to be defined or redefined and then supported by appropriate values and plans.

Traditional universities often face this challenge in the face of upstarts like the University of Phoenix that provide higher education in more cost-effective ways. In communities affected by these new types of universities, the traditional universities are starting to question what their purpose should be. Only good things can happen as a result.

Unfortunately, most organizations are so befuddled by the new pressures that they become less interested than usual in addressing the question of what the enterprise's purpose should be. They become stalled without a clear direction.

What does it mean to Harvard College, for example, that Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, found it more useful to drop out and pursue his own education than to stay and earn his Harvard degree? Similarly, Michael Dell is also a college dropout. When some of the most able people in a generation find college to be not very helpful during the dawn of the Knowledge Age, the time to reconsider the purposes and ways of providing higher education may be overdue.

For many of these universities, the conflict between thriving as a faculty member and the serving needs of students are hopelessly at odds. Long-held rules of tenure will prohibit those who are most skilled in many of the new knowledge-led fields from qualifying as instructors at many nonprofit degree-granting institutions.

Those enterprises that have a well-founded purpose (beyond simply meeting budgets) will usually find that an ability to stay focused on that purpose allows them to successfully adapt to the irresistible force, like the business team that needed to overcome the weather in order to hold an important meeting.

Having a clear and exciting purpose for the enterprise adds other important benefits, including making it easier to attract and retain outstanding employees. Purposelessness has become so common in work-a-day jobs that those who volunteer their time in nonprofit organizations often say that they do so to overcome their sense of meaningless efforts in the paying workplace.

Do your colleagues and associates understand where your organization is trying to go?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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