April 1, 2015

Corporate Culture in a Venn Diagram

There is a diagram floating around LinkedIn and Twitter that attempts to illustrate an individual’s true ‘purpose’. It’s amusing to me, because it’s short-sighted. It may even be delivering a disservice to some.

Whenever I come across the graphic, I immediately wonder if it’s doing a disservice to employees everywhere.

There are four circles in the Venn Diagram, where the overlapping circles read as follows:

  • Passion/Profession – That which you are good at
  • Passion/Mission – That which you love
  • Mission/Vocation – That which the world needs
  • Profession/Vocation – That which you can be paid for

In the middle of all four circles is a blue star, which denotes ‘purpose’.

Cute, but it’s rather myopic.

The diagram suggests your purpose (arguably something that is aided and abetted by whether or not an employee is engaged at work) isn’t affected by other factors such as your direct manager, your team, or the organization where you work.

Naturally, this got me thinking.

I think everyone deserves to reach their purpose in life, at work, and so on. I believe, however, that it is extremely difficult to achieve one’s purpose without the support of other factors in the place (or places) where he or she works.

Therefore, I whipped up the “Corporate Culture in a Venn” diagram to depict something that does take into account four key factors:

  • Self/Boss – Relationship or Transactional
    • Does an employee and his/her boss actually have a productive, communicative relationship — where the leader is helping the employee develop, learn, grow, etc. — or is the duo more of a transaction, where the boss uses the employee as an asset, treating him/her like headcount, and not caring whatsoever about his/her future. Does the employee use the boss solely for a paycheque?
  • Boss/Team – Open or Closed
    • The employee is normally part of a team of some varying size. If the the team and the direct leader is open, reciprocal and  accessible, it does wonders for purpose and engagement. If, however, both the boss and the team exhibit closed behaviours — unwilling to adapt, be proactive or ideate — it’s a definitive nail in the coffin of goodness.
  • Self/Org – Committed or Indifferent
    • When the organization and its senior leadership are committed to the employee (fair wages, community involvement, learning and development opportunities, etc.) it is far easier for the employee to commit him or herself to the organization’s mission, satisfying its goals, customer commitments, and so on. If the organization is indifferent — not caring about the employees who make up their “most valuable asset” quips on annual reports, you can be certain the employees will become indifferent to the organization as well.
  • Org/Team – Connected or Absent
    • For a team to be a successful cog in the wheel of the entire organization, it must feel connected to other teams, thus other parts of the organization. For an organization to act as one, it itself must be connected to all teams, not simply the Sales Team or Marketing, for example. When all teams are connected, the organization becomes symbiotic. If, however, a team becomes absent — making no effort to connect with other teams, or the organization — it is the very definition of silos, fiefdoms and stovepipes. In other words, a culture killer.

If all four components mentioned above are achieved — Relationship, Open, Committed and Connected — I believe (through my experience and research) that the organization will become engaged, and thus the employee has a greater chance of achieving their purpose.

culture in a venn


8 Replies to “Corporate Culture in a Venn Diagram”

  1. Like the diagram Dan. The biggest challenge in all this is that employees change – ‘purpose’ is not necessarily fixed. Understanding how to manage this flux is a real challenge. And how to express that in a diagram is quite a challenge too.

  2. Dan, I like the original diagram and stumbled across your article on Forbes, I checked at your website and then saw your TEDx talks, you have some interesting ideas.

    But if I may point out I think you are being a little bit too condescending to the original diagram, of course, it won’t be for everybody, but the reason that it has so much appeal (in my opinion) it’s that it’s simple, relatable and heartfelt (and definitely idealistic rather than “cute”) that is something very easy to connect with. It’s also an internal vision of how to find purpose, so not having external factors makes absolute sense. If I would have to offer a critique of yours I would say it’s completely full of big words, corporate vision and not at all easy to understand at first glance, it needs your extended explanation as support or it will fail to convey its message. Sorry but if the other one is “cute” yours is boring and unrelatable, but probably more realistic, but then again most people want to think big and with the heart when searching for purpose.

    Not trying to be mean at all, good effort at trying to include external factors, I just that I think that it needs more work and simplification and the other one is very good at that (specially in a social media context, where the attention span we have makes it difficult for too complex to be easily communicated).

    1. Often I use my blog to ‘work out loud.’ I have no qualms in doing so.

      What goes into the final copy of something–be it a book, or column–is usually simpler, but not always.

      I believe the diagram found in THE PURPOSE EFFECT is much simpler than this blog post (and accompanying diagram) from about 18 months prior.

    1. Hello there. I believe it’s addressed in my book, THE PURPOSE EFFECT, which published well after this blog post. Thanks for visiting!

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