“Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.” — Clarence Darrow
The fastest companies have causes they use to launch crusades. Missions and visions tend to be watered down.
Causes come from the heart and people are emotionally connected.
The causes are inclusive and aren’t just about profit.
In It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small…It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business, Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton write about launching crusades.
Causes Over Visions
Jennings and Haughton contrast the definition of a cause with a vision:
- Cause – that which gives rise to an action, a motive, a principle, a belief, or purpose.
- Vision – someting perceived in a dream, trance, spell or stupor; something supernaturally revealed to a prophet.
Jennings and Haughton share example causes:
- Charles Schwab – “To be the most ethical and useful financial services company in the world.”
- AOL – “To build a global medium as central to people’s lives as the telephone or television, only more useful.”
- Hotmail – “To revolutionize and democratize communications.”
- Clear Channel – “Creating value for the shareholder.”
- Telepizza – “Creating a world of Telepizza citizens.”
Where Do Causes Come From
Causes come from life changing events and defining moments.
Jennings and Haughton write:
“Unlike missions and visions, which are generally created by committees and sufficiently watered down to please everyone, offend nobody, and motivate no
one, a cause comes from a defining moment in a leader’s life.”
Criteria for a Cause
Jennings and Haughton found eight criteria that were common to the causes of companies that consistently demonstrated an ability to get to market faster than their rivals:
- Causes are never goals.
- Causes big enough for crusades come from the heart.
- The best causes are big, bold, and aspirational.
- Causes are inclusive.
- Causes aren’t just about profit.
- Big causes have an aha! effect.
- A cause needn’t be credible to the outside world.
- Causes are expressed in few words. Disney’s was building a place to “make people happy.”
Turning Causes into a Crusade
Visions and missions often fail to achieve the desired objective. Discovering and creating a cause, and turning it into action is a replicable model, but it’s more than hanging a plague on a wall.
Jennings and Haughton write the eight steps that successful companies do:
- The leader/founder/CEO must live the cause.
- Those around the leader must also live the cause.
- All key executives and managers must be seen as living the cause.
- Everyone is invited to join the crusade.
- Those not joining the crusade are invited to leave.
- Reward activities that advance the crusade and punish those that don’t.
- Constantly celebrate the cause and crusade.
- Eventually, the cause and crusade become the reason for existence.
In my experience, I would agree that a compelling “why” or purpose matters more than the actual “what” or vision.
“Why” is ultimately the motivation.
Whether or not a vision is compelling depends on how compelling the “why” actually is.