What is the Format of a Purpose Statement?

We have discussed the importance of having a clear Purpose but what does a good Purpose Statement look like?

While there are no hard and fast rules about what a statement of purpose should look like, it can be useful to have a basic understanding of how it may be constructed.  To this end, the basic format of a statement of purpose is:  Activity to Outcome

Example:  “To invest for a better future to make a difference in the lives of our customers, our people and our stakeholders“.

The above example is from an investment company and the colours show the activity they undertake and what the intended outcome of that activity is.  This may seem a bit superficial but if you look closely it is actually a very powerful statement for those working in the company as it enables them to make decisions (in this case investments) that are intended to result in one or more of the stated outcomes.

It should be noted, however, that your statement of purpose does not have to follow this ‘rule’.  So long as it feels right to those people who interact closely with the business then the structure of the statement is, to some extent, less relevant.  For example,  some Purpose Statements will only focus on the outcome and ignore the activity that generates the outcome.  In these cases, the outcome is so strong that it can stand alone and the activities that the business undertakes to achieve the outcome can be decided by the people in the business.

Example:  “To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain

In the above example the company in question has reversed the standard structure by starting with the outcome and then stating the activities that attain that outcome.  We can put this in a traditional format as follows:

“To create programmes and provide services that inform, educate and entertain to enrich people’s lives“.

Looking at these two versions of the same statement of Purpose we can see that the first one reads better without losing its meaning.

An example of a purpose that only focuses on the outcome is:

“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers”.

Here we can see that the activity element of the statement of Purpose is missing so the activities that the business takes to achieve this are much more open to interpretation.

Summary

While the basic format of a statement of purpose is Activity to Outcome, this does not mean that every statement of Purpose has to follow this format. No matter what format your Purpose statement takes, it is critical that it is short and to the point while being clear and unambiguous.

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