Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Organizational Purpose discovery

Hi All,

I have a question from a customer to give them an overview of what kind of methodologies there are for purpose discovery. I am aware of Tim Kelley's book, and saw his presentation in this forum. So I am curious of specific implementations in companies of this methodology, (does any of you have a policy or roles - apps - around this) but I am also interested in other methodologies, that can be used for organizational purpose discovery.

Thanks in advance for your input.


12 Replies
Bruce Peters

I am, also, interested to learn more on this topic. Thanks for teeing it up!

Tyler Danke

Purely Poultry has used Patrick Lencioni's method described in The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business pages 82-87It definitely comes assuming structure already exists in the organization which is part of what lead us to Holacracy. Their section on Create Clarity has 6 critical questions one of which is "Why do we exist?"  

We have a One Page Playbook Policy and an Organizational Health Meeting Policy

HolacracyOne has a Purpose Guide role that we have mimicked. 


Edward Ter Horst

I have done some searching over last couple of months, and i have found very little that was helpfull apart from traditional vision mision and strategy literature. 

Untill someone told me "it is simple: write down the purpose you think you have  and dont spent to much time on it. check if it is safe enough to try and then try it.  from there on, improve it. This way it is more evolutionairy instead of intelligently designed. 

If this still is difficult try some exercises that get people in the mode of longterm thinking

"dream of the perfect future for your company" or "what would make you very happy and proud in regards to your company" in 10 years.


"it has to be easy" )

Koen Veltman

In a previous organization I once had a marketing agency come in that got started with questions like "if you were a supermarket, which one would it be and why?", if your company was an animal, which one and why?". same for cars, cities/countries/sportsmen...Or what would you like your customers to say about you? Or if you celebrated your organizations 100th birthday - what would be the tone and praise of the speaches given by your customers/shareholders/employees/suppliers/... 

By making these kind of analogies you can step outside of your organization and use all the emerging ideas to channel back into the organization to craft a purpose statement.

For everything else: focus on doing the work and purpose will emerge eventually


Tyler, Edward and Koen. Thanks a lot for your input so far. I acknowledge that purpose is evolutionary and discovered in doing the work, and at the same time I feel it comes from another level than day to day operational work. I think the challenge is to collectively tap into that level without thinking it up.

Bruce Peters

Any one have any experience using "Theory U" to enhance this process? 


Hi Marco, a few other resources that may help:

If you find any other, I would be happy to hear them, as I am starting to work in this area myself

Best, Elsabeth


Hi Elsabeth,

Great resources! Thanks a lot. I also got this resource https://medium.com/@wendyvanderklein/discover-your-organizations-purpose-in-half-a-day-af6fc9100e1b#.4q3b8sls4




Thanks Marco! Also interesting to see her company's website  

Edward Ter Horst

Thanx Marco, very usable.

Andrea Faré

I've done some research with little success and I will look into the sources of information you guys have posted here. 

So far the best purpose elicitation question I have ever heard is the following:

"What is the reason we exist together besides making money?"

I believe this is an awesome starting question for any purpose discovery session.




Wendy van der Klein

Marco referred to my blog on the topic of evolutionary purpose discovery. This is where you can find it: https://medium.com/@wendyvande...fc9100e1b#.3hda7suea

The process I developed is based on a mixture of methods such as creative source mapping and the empty chair approach. What makes it strong in my opinion is that integrative decision making ensures you have a statement after 3-4 hours. Most organizations complain that they have had long sessions on purpose/vision/mission without clear output. They are really surprised that it is indeed possible to figure it out in half a day! 

After each session I conduct I improve the process and feedback is welcome to further develop it. I believe that a strong process to discover Purpose can help transform business consciousness (which is my individual purpose and is an important tool to add to the Holacracy system. 

Individual purpose discovery is my other passion and that is where the book of Tim Kelley is of great help. If then the purpose of the organization is clear and people are aware of their indiviudal purpose beautiful conversations can take place on the resonance between the two. Which is to me the basis of purpose-led HR practices.