The Secret to Better Decision-Making

February 15, 2019


How do you make business decisions? How do you know the right next move? What about your employees? How do they know?

One of the less measurable but most impactful benefits of brand purpose is critical decision-making. In a survey of nearly 500 CEOs by the EY Beacon Institute, 84 percent of senior executives strongly agreed that their business transformation efforts will have greater success if integrated with purpose. I believe this is because purpose builds more consistent and strategic decision-making across an organization. 

Once you peel back the layers to reveal an actionable and focused statement of purpose, it becomes easier to identify what fits and what doesn’t. Brand purpose helps leaders think holistically rather than in silos, improving short term decision-making and long term strategic thinking. 

“It’s an inside-out strategy rather than outside-in: you don’t just look at where the opportunities are and where you could make a lot of money as a way to decide where you ought to be. You decide where you want to be strategically, based on what you want to do,” said Michael Beer, the Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School and a director of the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership.

I really started to look at the relationship between purpose and strategic decision-making in 2017 when American Airlines began making headlines with a series of customer failures. When I looked at their mission statement, I realized part of the problem was clear. Or rather it was unclear. With so many competing areas of focus, how can employees and leaders think quickly and make cohesive decisions that move the entire business forward.

Imagine you’re a leader facing a significant, time-sensitive decision and you reflect on the company’s mission to help you with that decision? Or, if you’re evaluating a potential deal, which do you prioritize: Customer Service. Reach. Profitability. Culture. Technology. Environmentalism. It’s all in there.

AMR Corporation is committed to providing every citizen of the world with the highest quality air travel to the widest selection of destination possible. AMR will continue to modernize its fleet while maintaining its position as the largest air carrier in the world, with the goal of becoming the most profitable airline. AMR is the airline that treats everyone with equal care and respect, which is reflected in the way each of AMR employee is respected. AMR recognize that its employees are the key to the airlines success and invest in the futures of its employees. By investing in tomorrow technologies and by following strict adherence towards environmental regulations, AMR demonstrates its commitment to the world environment. 

Conversely, Southwest has recently posted this statement of purpose to their website: 

To connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.

It’s short, actionable and authentic, and it gives employees and leaders a clear framework for making better decisions. The next time you are working on an important decision take a moment to reflect back on your purpose. It might be the secret to making a better decision.

*If you don’t have a purpose statement, look at your mission. Ask yourself what outcomes best align with the organization’s mission. Or, are there competing areas of focus in your mission? Is everyone around you in alignment with your mission? Is the message clear? Depending on what you find, it could be time to evaluate your organization’s brand purpose. 

(Author’s note: This article includes an outdated version of American’s mission. The company currently does not have a mission statement listed on their website.)




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Karen Bailey is a brand purpose consultant and specializes in helping companies define their purpose and align their business around it. In 2017, she launched the blog, Purpose Greater Than Profit, to start a meaningful conversation about the increasingly important role of brand purpose, purposeful leadership and a better way of doing business.


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