4 April 2018

Purpose – from what perspective?


In my last post I discussed some reasons why a clear and meaningful purpose is important.  In this one I'll discuss the most important thing I've learned about defining the purpose of a service: define the purpose of your service from the perspective of the customer.

(Or citizen, service user, resident, client, patient, tenant, etc.  Whatever the most appropriate term is for the people the service is set up to serve.)

Too often organisations instead take an internal view.  The story of Oticon, a Danish hearing aid company, is a good one.  It's told by Lars Kolind in The Second Cycle – Winning the War against Bureaucracy.  Their stated purpose for many years was:

"Leaders in hearing technology"
 
This comes across as a bit 'meh' to me.  Is it clear?  What exactly does 'leaders' mean?  Do the employees care if they are the leaders or not?   Most importantly, does the customer care if Oticon are the leaders in hearing technology? 

As Lars says in his book "I never met any consumer who asked for the world's most advanced hearing aids... In fact I rarely met consumers who asked for hearing aids at all".  What mattered to the customer was to live a normal life with the hearing they had.  They therefore redefined Oticon's purpose as:

"Help people to live as they wish with the hearing they have"
 
I like this.  It describes clearly and succinctly what the organisation exists to do from the perspective of the customer.  I also think it does well in relation to the points discussed in my last post

They used their new purpose to redesign the organisation, so roles and functions added value for the customer and contributed to achieving purpose.  As a consequence they reduced costs, increased sales, and Oticon became profitable again.

How about you?  What's the purpose of your service – when you consider it from the perspective of the customer?  Feel free to comment below, or share this with someone who might appreciate it. 

In my next post, I'll share a few things I've learned about helping others to define the purpose of their service. 

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