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Why does your organisation exist?

Why does your organisation exist? In fact, why does any organisation exist? 

It really comes down to meeting needs. At a superficial level, it is obvious that we need to meet the needs of the people we serve. But, in reality, for organisations to succeed long term and to be sustainable, they need to meet needs on three different levels. 

The first level is the obvious one: meeting the needs of the people your organisation serves – customers, patients, users, whatever they are called in your organisation. Those needs must be effective and at a high standard. If you operate in a competitive environment, you need to meet them better than your competitors do. 

At a second level, every organisation also must meet the needs of the people who come to work in the organisation. Workplaces are more complex, and the needs of workers are more sophisticated than ever before. People don’t come to work for money alone. We strongly believe that money only buys you attendance – I have turned up, give me a paycheque. Everything after that is optional, and there is no correlation between higher performance and receiving the money. 

That higher performance is based on other needs being met –  things that are predictable, but that are not as prevalent in workplaces as they should be. These needs include being appreciated, the opportunity to do meaningful work and make a difference, receiving feedback, and being included. We need to meet these needs of the people who come to work – and accept it as one of the key responsibilities of an organisation or business. 

The third level of needs is those of the people who fund or regulate or govern the business in some way, the people who direct the organisation. In a commercial operation, that might be the owners, in a not for profit it might be a board. For a government agency, it’s obviously the government of the day. 

Anytime this third group of needs are not met, the organisation is vulnerable, and a change is inevitable. If a commercial organisation doesn’t meet its bottom line needs, then the business won’t exist for long. If a government agency doesn’t meet the needs of the people directing it, then some sort of merger or change is coming. 

The critical point here is we can’t afford as leaders to focus on meeting needs at one level only. We must meet the needs simultaneously at all three levels. The great news is that the best way to meet that third set of needs, the needs of the people who own or regulate or direct or govern the organization, is to focus heavily on the other two. When we meet the needs of people, both within the organization and those we serve, we will be much more successful in delivering sustainably on the bottom line.