“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for change.” Or, to translate these words written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his novel Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years for the current age: Change is the price we pay for living and doing business. But change has not always been as significant and fundamental as what we are experiencing today. The world is busily reinventing itself. Digital technologies are accelerating the pace of change. The path forward is not always clear.
In most cases, classic change-management tools are no longer effective. By the time concepts and programs leave the drawing board, the wind has shifted direction yet again. To spark and feed the flames of far-reaching transformation, it takes people who embody change. Their ideas and actions provide answers to important questions: Why does the organization exist? How can we live our vision of a better future? They seize the initiative within the team. They are not afraid to leave questions unanswered. They create purpose and embody it fully. People like this can be found in almost every organization. With their mindsets and specific skill-sets, they are worth their weight in gold.
Purpose-builders don’t merely go for an efficient and effective approach. They value their company as it is today. But at the same time, they are eager to explore its undiscovered potential. So they can serve as a catalyst for the organization. Driven by their positive vision, the projects entrusted to them can shake the very foundations of the enterprise. Overturn hidden agendas. Sweep aside deficiencies and dysfunctionalities.
True transformation can only succeed when management is firmly committed to identifying these purpose-builders and giving them the right ball to run with. They can be found at all levels of the hierarchy. Make no mistake: tomorrow’s success will not be based on the status quo that makes the company successful today. Transformation must be actively promoted top-down. And grow from the inside out.
There is no question that, now more than ever, people are looking not only to lead, but also to add purpose. Organizations that reject such aspirations will also find themselves sidelined in terms of talent management. Creating and maintaining a purposeful culture takes time and effort. The best chance for success? Give genuine high potentials room to drive change. They are the only ones who can bring about change in the sense that Goethe intended. We should strive to build a culture that is capable of reinventing itself – starting at the heart of the organization and working outward.