How fuzzy is your organization's purpose? (3 stages and what to do no matter where you are)

When I first started to talk to organizations about Big Audacious Meaning, it became clear pretty quickly that not everyone was at the same stage of what I'll call purpose maturity. At one end of the spectrum were organizations that had begun to articulate their purpose and put it into action. At the other end were those that valued a purpose, but were just beginning to explore the idea.


The stages of purpose maturity

No matter where an organization is, there is something we can be doing to help make the most of that desire to capture both purpose and profit. To make money and meaning. Here's a simple breakdown of 3 stages of purpose maturity and what to do at each stage.

Stage 1 - Discover

Organizations at this stage are just beginning to understand what a Big Audacious Meaning can do for them. They are looking to define it, establish how it could come to life throughout the organization, and spread out into the world. A thoughtful discovery can provide the foundation. It can reveal the drivers of purpose and help provide the guiding principles that will inform the collaborations where the Big Audacious Meaning will emerge. With the purpose defined, we'll explore how it can come to life throughout the organization (see Stage 2 & 3 for more on this.)

Stage 2 - Clarify

Some organizations have a sense of purpose, but have either never defined it or need to redefine it. In some instances, they may be trying to use their mission statement as a way to express it (speaking from experience, this never works – a mission statement simply cannot capture what a purpose or Big Audacious Meaning delivers.) It's critical to go through a process of clarifying the Big Audacious Meaning in order to arrive at a focused and well-articulated purpose.  Additionally, there may be some confusion around what an organization believes, what it is currently doing (corporate social responsibility, volunteering, etc.) and how it brings it all together to make all the efforts more powerful. We use an investigation process to identify where there may be a disconnect or to uncover opportunity. The investigation is a vital part of the process within both Stages 2 & 3.

Stage 3 - Confirm

Organizations at this stage have identified a purpose and may have even begun to introduce it throughout the organization. Sparked by a sense that there is potential left untapped, leaders at this stage will ask, "Are we doing everything we can to take full advantage of our purpose?" At this point, it's important to go through a process of confirming the Big Audacious Meaning to ensure there is a unifying definition that is accepted universally through the organization. This should be coupled with an investigation (as described at Stage 2) to determine where there are opportunities for the purpose to elevate the business. At this stage, we are helping organizations optimize everything a Big Audacious Meaning can do for them.

We can't assume that everyone we hope to serve knows our Big Audacious Meaning. Vagueness saps its power. Uncertainty will leave awesome opportunities unexplored. We need to find the clarity. And we need to be measured in our efforts to bring it to all our stakeholders. Because when our Big Audacious Meaning is clear, so is our future.

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at

ProcessDan Salva