Friday, September 17, 2010

What in the world is a "Purpose-Profit" balanced equation?

Courtesy: Google Images

I guess, my blogs in the last few weeks –definitely has created some buzz and made folks to pay a closer attention! On the other day, someone within our professional network barraged me with a list of questions (friendly questions though!) – What do I mean by the purpose-profit equation? What are the variables within this equation -other than purpose and profit? How and where do we draw the line between purpose and profit while balancing this equation? Are these virtues or variables mutually exclusive? Can they walk in harmony with each other - i.e. enhancing and leaning on one another thus creating a multiplier effect as suggested by Inder Sidhu?

While I was thinking about the best way to answer these questions within the larger context of the business world – I could not think of any better analogy than Buddha’s “five horse faculty” analogy. Extending this analogy to the business world- Corporation can be visualized as a team of five horses - with the lead horse (CEO) propelling the other two pairs of horses – and together they pulling the wagon called corporation to meet its intended purpose. The lead horse can go fast or slow (as guided by the board/stakeholders) - and the remaining two pairs of horses, not only must fall in step with the lead horse, but also, must balance with each other for the wagon to go forward without being toppled .

So far so good…right…well, I hear someone asking - what does that got to do with the purpose-profit balanced equation? Well, the first pair of horses within this analogy can be equated to “purpose and profit” dimension followed by the next pair of horses to “destiny and decision” dimension. In other words, “the CEO, purpose, profit, destiny and decision” are the five horses (or variables) that ride the wagon called corporation (as outlined in the picture on the top of the page) - within the context of balancing this purpose-profit equation for a maximum business outcome.

Rightfully so, the first pair of horses that need to be balanced within this equation is “purpose and profit” - I mean literally, they need to be balanced on a continual basis very much like a “tough love” type conversation occurring between two individuals. Again, leveraging Buddha’s analogy – it is like a “blind giant” called profit, conversing with a “small sharp-eyed cripple”, called purpose. Within their conversation - the blind giant apparently was saying to the sharp-eyed cripple: "Although I'm strong and can go very fast, I can't see clearly where I'm going and so, if you can ride on my shoulders, together we could go very far with the help of your sharp-eyes." Granted – it is a funny analogy – but the truth is that purpose and profit dimensions are profoundly intertwined - while the purpose dimension provides the solid root for the profitable growth, profit, on the other hand nourishes the soil in which purpose can grow. They are inseparable and necessary for each other – very much like the mind driving the profit and the heart serving the purpose in our personal lives. When heart and mind are brought to a point of this harmonious co-existence, the power of one driven multiplier effect indeed will start happening!

The next pair within the equation that needs be balanced is “destiny and decision” – i.e. exhibiting unwavering destiny focused determination while balancing the day to day decisions. Leveraging Buddha’s analogy again- it can be compared to a man wearing a turban (destiny) while standing near a burning bush (decision). Obviously, if a man is wearing a turban standing close to a burning bush, he is anxious to get rid of it (due to the heat), but yet, instead of throwing it away completely- he just keeps it aside for a period of time - till he puts the fire off. Similarly, there may be situations within our business world -where we may have to be decision minded to achieve some near term “fire fighting” situations – but, soon afterwards, we must wear the turban(destiny) back, after quenching those fire fighting situations. In other words- if destiny is not coupled with decision, it will lead to a status-quo and eventually will come back and haunt us in the long run.

The next obvious question is how does the lead horse ensure that the remaining pairs of horses are complementing each other by enhancing and leaning on one another thus creating a magical multiplier effect? With the question is about being magical, I guess -the only way we can answer it is, with a picturesque story, and not just words. Although, history is filled with many such examples (both modern and ancient days) - as I think about it more - the story of Joseph stands out more than the others. As the story goes - Joseph, the then governor of Egyptian Pharaoh in the ancient scriptural days is being sent to Egypt against his will. However, on reaching there, in a short time, with his purpose minded focus along with his shrewd profit minded administration kills – get the recognition as the best manager within Pharaoh’s court. Not only that- he also exercises integrity in every decision by fleeing away from the man made distractions (or the so called tests) of his days, but, yet was destiny minded when it comes to saving Egypt from the famine. Even on situations when he was misunderstood, imprisoned, and forgotten by his fellow friends - Joseph exercised his purpose in life – which eventually helped him to create the multiplier effect in the midst of one of the difficult circumstances of his era. In other words, the five horse balancing approach helped him to come up with the first disruptive innovative business model in the world- thus protecting Egypt from one of the worst famines. If you think about it – Joseph along with his team was the first one to come up with the “Harvest-Tax-Store-Consume” business model much ahead of the famine (i.e. recession in today’s terminology) as opposed to the prevailing business model of that era (Harvest and Consume). The impact of his team's genius work was that all the countries in and around Egypt was spared of starvation (i.e. recovery in today’s terminology) during the famine.

Bottom Line: Buddha’s five horse analogy within the context of Joseph’s life is a great case study for today’s business leaders – as balancing these five horses on a daily basis will not only make our corporations a best in class incubator for purpose-profit balanced leaders, but also producing highly sought after destiny-focused decision makers like Joseph. Healthy, yet impactful destiny balanced decisions on a daily basis increases productivity of the employees, enhances the morale, increases the perceived value to consumers; produces healthy financial results, better stock prices and dividends for the investors and other stakeholders.

1 comment:

  1. A wagon called Corporation!

    Charles, in spite of the severe pain I am into, I thrived on this post. The post has purpose, it made me feel profitable, it increased my belief in my destiny and supported my decisions.

    If believe if you would marry this post with that on the eagles' balancing act you shall end up with a great philosophy! I should call you from now on "The Junior Budha".

    Again, hands up for you