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Defining the organisation and creating its identity – strategy from an orgtology perspective

org-identity-small Organisational definitione and identity from an orgtology perspective

The first phase of any strategic process must always be to know who we are and then to decide what we want to do with that. The strategic process thus begins with an understanding of purpose and intent. E.g., there are many boxers in the world and they all participate in a sport that hold the same rules. They thus operate on a similar algorithm. The purpose of one boxer is also the purpose of the next. Yet, the intent of each boxer is unique. One might box to stay fit. Another might want to be the best in the world, etc.

Purpose is mathematical and receptive. Intent is abstract and projective. Together they give meaning and hope. To fully understand the identity of Org, we must also know its preferred behavior and how it intends to conduct itself. This adds "values" and "business model" to the mix.

We thus define and identify Org through the following components:

  1. Purpose;
  2. Intent;
  3. Values; and a
  4. Business Model.

Basic Assumption on organisational definition and identity

If we understand the purpose and intent of Org, then we have enough data to run and change Org. Purpose drives performance whilst intent creates relevance – there is nothing else that Org must do.

From purpose we can devise values, processes, policies, procedures, and targets. Purpose gives birth to the operations of Org. From intent we can create objectives, programs, and projects that aim to change the organisation. Intent thus ignites the strategy of Org.

It therefore makes sense that the first task of an Orgtologist is to fully understand the purpose and intent of Org. From there, he/she can solve a myriad of problems, drive efficiency, and devise effectiveness.

Purpose and Intent – the foundation of orgtology 

Org must do two things, which is to perform and stay relevant. There is nothing else it must do. Performance is a matter of efficiency, and relevance a matter of effect. Before there can be performance, there must be purpose. In so, intent precedes relevance. Thus, Org begins as a purpose and grows through intent.

In traditional theories, we spoke of mission and vision. Mission being purpose, and vision being intent. In orgtology we still use the concept of vision, especially within the 5V model, where we devise five vision statements to create a strategic ladder that benchmarks our success. We do not use the term "mission" in our work since it creates confusion, especially with MBA educated clients. A widely spread idea in business schools is that "vision is where we want to go, and mission is how we get there". This creates a linear relationship between the two, which is contradictory to the duality theory of orgtology. We would rather preach: "purpose is who we are, and intent is what we want to do with that". This creates a dual existence between concepts that aim to run and change the business. The one does not annihilate the other.

Through having clarity around who and what we are (purpose), we can do something with it (intent). One does not follow the other. They co-exist as the core drivers of everything within Org. Purpose gives meaning whilst intent gives hope.

The difference between organisational purpose and intent - an orgtology perspective

Defining purpose

With purpose, we ask questions that explains our reason for existence. We thus commit to a statement that we will nurture and grow with no end in mind. The aim of purpose is to be clear on who and what we are. This will direct organisational performance. Old and powerful organisations are always purpose and process driven. To name only a few: The Roman Catholic Church; Buddhism; the Rolling Stones; and Coca Cola. These organisations do not change much. They simply perform their mandate in the best conceivable way.

Many organisations tend to "sexify" their statements of purpose. E.g., "To provide customer service beyond comparison…" or "To be a center of excellence...", etc. None of this really says anything about the organisation. My first advice is to let go of the "To". You are explaining what you are, not what you want to be. My second recommendation is to be clear. In the words of Mourid Barghouti: "The truth needs no eloquence". Just tell us who and what you are. You do not have to "zoop" that up. In precis, questions that create purpose aim to give certainty.

Questions that we ask to understand purpose:

  • What is our purpose?
  • Why is this our purpose?
  • What are our core processes?
  • Where must we do this?
  • For whom do we do this?
  • What are the inherent risks to this purpose?
  • What is critical for this purpose work?

Examples of statements of purpose

Defining behaviour through values

To define organisational values is both extremely important and difficult. It is important because if forms the foundation for organisational behaviour and culture. It is difficult because one needs to find a few foundational concepts that will direct the behaviour of all employees.

Values are an extension of purpose. Where purpose defines who we are and what we do, values state how we do what we do. The most successful organisations I know, place an extremely high premium on values. They are core to any performance management system, and they are the primary benchmark of good and bad behaviour.

To create corporate values is a time-consuming venture. Its always best to involve all employees. To derive at four to seven values for the organisation takes extensive dialogue and engagement. It is advisable to not have too many values.

We use behavioural rules to expand on our core values. During a performance assessment, we would assess the behavioural rules, and not the values. It is key that we attach each behavioural rule to a core value. Best practice in this regard is that different divisions within Org define their own behavioural rules for each value. It is not realistic that everyone in Org will apply values in the same way. E.g., in marketing "teamwork" might mean being creative and letting everyone express their individuality. In HR and Finance, "teamwork" might be punctuality and following rules. In my experience, to have one set of behavioural rules for all employees might prove to be counterproductive. The value itself is a receptive element. It is foundational and permanent. The behavioural rule is projective. It changes the way we apply the value.

Example of organisational values with their corresponding behavioural rules

Creating the dream

Org expresses its intent as a Vision. Through that it brings hope, change, and renewal. It thus energises the strategy of Org. During strategy development, we work with vision several times. It is the core of any strategic initiative. I have a dedicated essay on the 5V model, where we unpack a "success ladder" that takes us to our ultimate dream. We begin to work with intent when we broadly define our ultimate dream. It does not have to be quantifiable or realistic. Dreams never are. Its an ultimate desire – something we can always strive towards.

To create vision, we must ask questions that will plot our future relevance. These questions will often cast doubt on our current process efficiency. It will show our risks and probe opportunities. It is key to be critical of our current operations since that will help us to survive. The future poses uncertainty, which should drive us to effectively relate to our external environment. We thus deliberately inject neurosis into our system. To kill this self-inflicted neurosis, we must create strategy. Unlike purpose, the questions that ignite intent has a definite end in mind. We can only claim strategic success if vision dies! When desire becomes reality, we will create new intent. This will bring change that we must uphold - our operations.

Questions that we ask to decide vision:

  • Within the boundaries of our purpose, where do we want to be?
  • Why are we not there yet?
  • What if…?
  • What if we go somewhere else?
  • In which ways are we different?
  • When will what we currently do become irrelevant?

Vision creates uncertainty because it defines a state that does not exist yet. Unlike purpose, it is not a truth, which means that it needs eloquence. We write visions to seduce. We are selling a dream; thus, it is important to "sexify" a vision statement.

The aim of vision is to define strategy. In turn, the aim of strategy is to remove uncertainty. Vision creates a gap between our current and desired realities. Strategy must find ways to close that gap. If Org does close the gap, then it was effective in its strategy. The idea of strategy is thus to help us create a future state.

Examples of statements of intent

Defining modus operandi

Modus operandi refers to a particular way or method of doing something or the way in which something operates or works. In Org we call it a business model. A business model must be simple, e.g., "bait and hook". The mobile industry gives you a phone (bait) if you sign a contract (hook).

I have a dedicated essay on how to develop a business model. This essay simply shows that it is part of a set of things that creates organisational identity and definition. It thus goes with purpose, values, and intent. Jointly they define Org.

There are no rules on how to create or define a business model. Companies can be quite creative about this. In its simplest form it is about answering certain questions and making that public to employees. The table below is an example of that.

Example of a basic business model


Any remedial intervention for Org begins with an understanding of purpose and intent. They are foundational concepts, without which, Org cannot exist. Their relation is inverse because they draw from the same resource pool. This means that where you increase resources for one, you inevitably decrease it for the other. Respectively, purpose empowers and intent influences. Purpose directs the management function whilst intent creates strategy and is a leadership function. Purpose gives meaning whilst intent brings hope.

Purpose gives stability and order. In so, it authorises the processes of Org. Intent brings change and renewal. In so, it energises the strategy of Org. Purpose is process-based. In this, it aims to repeat the past in the most efficient way. Any organisation will try to make its purpose more relevant. To aid this, Org must create intent, which will become strategy that will bring change. The aim is always to make intent irrelevant. Intent is project-based. This is a non-repetitive task that aims to influence the future. E.g., I want to lose 10kg of weight (my intent). If I do so, I will make this desire irrelevant. My intent must now become a maintenance function (purpose). The aim is thus to turn a once-off non-repetitive project into a cyclic process.

Intent and purpose define Org. Together with values and a business model, we create the identity of Org. This is the beginning. From here we can run and change Org in a scientific way. Without a decent understanding of organisational definition and identity, remedial interventions might prove futile.

Originator of Orgtology


Join the Orgtologist Certification Program (OCP) and become a Certified Orgtologist with the International Orgtology Institute

The program is highly suitable for senior managers, directors, executives, and those who aim for senior positions within an organisation. The OCP has four parts. They are: orgtology theory, organisational design, strategy, management and leadership. This is an advanced program. To enroll, you must hold a bachelor's degree with three years of work experience. On completion, you can enroll as an Orgtologist with the International Orgtology Institute (IOI).


© Derek Hendrikz: 2021-06-26

Developing a business model
The strategic process – an orgtology perspective

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