Why are we doing this?

Sections of this topic

    My loyal blog readers have read my post on the 5 Ps of Preparation – Purpose, Product, People, Probable Issues, and Process. While all are important, which “P” is the most essential when preparing for a meeting?

    That’s right – Purpose. Otherwise, why would you be having the meeting in the first place if you didn’t know the purpose?

    Smart Facilitators know that clarity of purpose is essential for effectiveness. Whenever a group comes together, facilitators are intentional about ensuring they understand the purpose and that the purpose is communicated clearly to the participants.

    Purpose answers the question: “Why are we doing this? What is our overall objective?” Whether you are designing a conference, giving a speech, or planning a vacation, it is important to have a clearly stated purpose that is shared by all involved. When the purpose is unclear or not shared, it is easy for an activity to go astray.

    Applying the Secret of Purpose

    How important is the purpose? Consider these examples –

    • An organization is considering introducing a new product and it is trying to decide whether to launch the product right away or delay the launch four months until the industry’s annual convention. Which is better?
    • A department head is considering giving the same annual compensation increase to each employee, rather than varying the amounts. The department head believes this will reduce the amount of “water cooler” chatter about raises. Is the same increase a good idea?
    • The family is considering multiple options for vacation, including seven days on a beach, a tour of Italy, visiting Disney World, and hiking through the mountains together. Which should the family choose?

    In all three cases, the answer lies in the purpose of the activity.

    • In the case of the product launch, the answer depends on the purpose of the launch. If the purpose of the launch is to gain exposure for the company as an industry leader, delaying until the convention may be appropriate. But if the purpose of the launch is to increase revenues for the company as quickly as possible, launching immediately may make more sense.
    • For the department head considering giving the same annual compensation increase to each employee, rather than varying the amounts, the question again is, “What is the purpose of compensation increases?” If the purpose is to reward performance, a level increase for everyone might only be appropriate if everyone has performed at the same level. However, if the purpose is to promote teamwork and to reward people based on the performance of the company, a level increase may be appropriate.
    • For the family deciding what to do for vacation, the answer also lies in the question of purpose. Is the purpose of vacations for this family to get rest and relaxation, see sites the family hasn’t seen before, make sure the kids enjoy themselves, work through a challenging experience together, some combination of these, or something altogether different? While members of the family may have different views of the purpose of vacation, once the family agrees on a shared purpose, the decision on where to go becomes much simpler.

    These examples are intended to show how many decisions, whether professional or personal, should be made based on a clearly identified purpose. When groups remember their purpose when making decisions, the result can be greater consistency, clarity, and effectiveness.


    For more resources, see the Library topic Facilitation.


    Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, Inc., The Facilitation Company, and author of the brand new The Secrets of Facilitation 2nd Edition, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy. Leadership Strategies is a global leader in facilitation services, providing companies with dynamic professional facilitators who lead executive teams and task forces in areas like strategic planning, issue resolution, process improvement, and others. They are also a leading provider of facilitation training in the United States.