Schlagwort-Archive: Purpose

The pretended purpose

The complex interplay of purposes and means as well as the influence of the unintended consequences leads to a certain arbitrariness of purpose. In principle, it is possible for everyone to interpret the purpose according to their own interests and thus to misuse one for another purpose. For example, when a pharmacy, whose purpose is to provide medicines to cure patients, supplies cheaper compounds to satisfy economic interests; or when the railways no longer have the purpose of providing public mobility but abandon routes because they do not have the desired capacity utilization; or when the postal service becomes privatized and subsequently different service providers deliver parcels, each with different vehicles and schedules throughout the day – which consequently leads to an increase in the number of vans. If the comprehensible purpose is replaced by another, mostly an economic one, then the actual purpose degenerates to a pretended one.

In the end the purpose is in the eye of the beholder. This means that all measures can be assumed to have different intentions. Nevertheless, there are also attempts to deceive the public and to pretend a purpose. What are the reasons for a purpose?

  • Original reasons
    Belief in a product, service or idea is the drive that gives inventors and founders the perseverance to get through the early stages of their business. The trust that you create for yourself or for others, makes it possible to get through the enormous efforts and early setbacks and to keep up. Carl Benz’s family is a good example of the needed support – Bertha Benz and her children, who made it possible to cross the tipping point to the establishment of auto-mobility by daring and achieving the first overland tour with a car. They were propelled by the belief in the automobile and the abilities of Carl Benz.
  • Economic reasons
    Mass production permeates the world of purposes. It is irrelevant whether cars, cigarettes, books or schnitzel are produced on a production line. The original purposes of mobility, tobacco, and knowledge transfer or food intake are replaced by the purpose of maximum utilization of the manufacturing line. As automation progresses, the jobs are taken over by machines and the remaining purpose is to create added value – regardless of the original purpose of the goods. This is always driven by the pursuit of the owners for more, no matter in which industry.
  • Market reasons
    Especially long-lasting companies have experienced shifts in purpose over the decades. A good example is 3M, which we know from Post-its. Many people are not familiar with the origin that is reflected in the name – Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company. In the beginning 3M mined minerals to produce abrasive paper for the automotive industry. Today, the company holds 25,000 patents, produces 50,000 different products based on 47 technology platforms. 3M is driven by the requirements of customers and the market – and by the inventive spirit of its employees.
  • Marketing reasons
    In the flood of products, companies have to keep coming up with new ways to attract attention. The original and economic purposes take a back seat in favor to advertising psychological purposes. One example is Greenwashing, e.g. MacDonalds Scale for good or Nestlé’s NaturaALL Bottle Alliance. For PR reasons, the exploitation of resources is concealed and at the same time customers are attracted with “greener” offers. This purpose is driven by the compulsive search for usable attention.
  • Personal reasons
    Employees and managers are not necessarily interested in the original purpose of a company, but more about their own development. This is particularly visible in managers, who move from one industry to another and fill various functions and responsibilities as well as board positions, typically before the adverse consequences of their actions catch up with them – for obvious legal reasons there are no names here. Their real purpose is the personal career. Depending on the initial situation, convenient reasons are pretended, even though it is only about the one thing. This purpose is driven by personal ambition.

The greatest difficulty today is that all enterprises hide behind economic reasons. Instead a company should fulfil its very own purpose –

  • Hospitals should provide health care, not increase profits through too many operations
  • Railways should expand public transport offers, not closing lines in the interest of added value
  • Network providers should increase mobile network coverage, not introduce the latest bandwidth just for urban regions

Bottom line: The purpose of a company is often not clear. With shareholder value, the companies have found a purpose that is beyond the original (except: for banks). Certain groups are satisfied at the expense of all. The original raison d’être of a company is abandoned in the interest of profitability. As if that were not enough, there are other possible reasons for a company to orient oneself (see above). Thus despite the fact that there is more sense in supplying the population with local agricultural products that do not destroy the environment or in caring for the elderly, than in maximizing profits at the expense of the real purpose. But beware: the commitment of employees and society cannot be achieved by means of a pretended purpose.

Purposes, their means and unwanted partners

Wheels first appeared on a Sumerian drinking cup as early as 5 millennia ago. The wheel was not known in America and Australia until the Europeans brought it in. The outer surface has always the same distance from the center and serves one purpose, namely to be round. Thus, the wheel offers the revolutionary property of being able to roll – and it is getting better and better over the millennia. Only in combination with other parts, besides the beauty of the wheel, its far-reaching benefits are revealed – especially the transport of goods and people. Is the roundness enough or does it need more for creating an effect?

Diverse purposes make a higher sense in the interaction with other things.

  • The purpose
    The raison d’être is the reason for the existence of something or someone. The purpose of a wheel, i.e. being round, has inspired inventors to further develop the rounding and construction again and again, up to ideas like the spokeless wheel in the Cyclotron.
    In the company, delivers the purpose the answer to the question Why does the business exist? – It provides the polar star of the organization, which ensures that the leaders and the employees develop their decisions and actions in a common direction. If the actual events no longer fit the common purpose, the efforts of the many activities mutually rescind each other and the enterprise loses its momentum.
    On the one hand, an assignment consists of the mission, the question What has to be done? and, on the other hand, of the purpose, the Why? – Therewith it is not only clear, what to focus on, but you also get reasons for developing passion. You not only learn how to saw, screw and sew, but you also develop a yearning for the vastness of the sea – while building a boat.
  • The purpose of the purposes
    The example of the wheel shows that the purpose can be very special – like flawless roundness. Impact is achieved when the wheel is connected to other parts that also have a purpose in its own right – the load compartment, the axle, the drawbar, the cab, etc. And thus a vehicle evolves that can transport goods and people from A to B. The overarching purpose arises from several ones on the higher level – for example, the transport from A to B. If you add a cannon to the vehicle and the chassis is made bulletproof, we get a tank that is used as a weapon in battle. As soon as weapons are used in an attack, we are in a warlike conflict with the purpose to win.
    This nesting of purposes is particularly confusing, if they are not openly stated. Again, if the purposes at the different levels do not fit together, they undermine each other and generate idle performance.
  • Means to an end
    The speed with which the purpose is sought determines the means required. These are the resources needed along the way: e.g. people, materials, finances, buildings, equipment, logistics, etc. Since resources are always limited and everyone is seeking for the scarce resources, it is always necessary to consider, where it is most useful.
    As soon as a purpose is merged with a greater one, it becomes a means to the superordinate one. The means always have an additional, separate purpose that is incorporated into the overall purpose.
  • Unintended purposes
    However, the activities do not only lead to the desired results – for example, when a truck becomes a weapon by being turned into a military mount. Often, effects occur that are not intended and in the worst case have not even been foreseen. These unintended consequences have the disadvantage that the original purpose fades into the background and the new consumes the sparse resources and you suddenly have responsibility for something that you never wanted.
    The unintended consequences are the surprises that make the best plan obsolete. For this reason, unintended side effects should always be taken into account, when considering the purpose, as they may have a major impact.

Bottom line: The purpose is an important aspect of all action. Especially in business, it offers a great boost, as the parties involved draw from it their intrinsic motivation for the realization. The difficulty lies in the multiplicity of purposes that clash and result in unforeseen effects. Different purposes are competing with each other at the same and different levels. The overarching purpose is the guiding star that shows the direction to those involved. Taking into account the available resources, the probability increases that the desired results will be achieved. If you then look beyond the box, you quickly recognize obvious, unintended purposes to which you should react with appropriate measures. Perhaps it is now easier to understand how important it is to consciously consider the purposes, their means and the unintended consequences.