When the pandemic hit, one of the first medical equipment companies out the gate trying to help was Medtronic, the world’s largest medical technology company: it actually quintupled production of respirators, and in a very short time. But as the company’s Vice President for Global Learning and Leadership, Jeff Orlando, explains to Dani and Stacia in this next episode of Is Purpose Working? stepping up is what you do if you try and operate every day according to an explicit purpose statement that “our first and foremost priority is to contribute to human welfare.” So how does having such an explicit purpose shape what you do if you work for a company like this?
A living document
Medtronic wrote down its mission statement (the Medtronic purpose) back in 1960. But it has kept it as a living document that is constantly returned to, Jeff explains: a kind of organizational constitution. This is reinforced by a conscious sense that all employees are really only ever ‘stewards’ of the mission. In fact, company decisions are explicitly mapped to the mission’s six central principles, every day—and, intriguingly, we hear how teams “un-stick” problems that aren’t being resolved by mapping them back onto the defining principles.
A role for ritual?
One of the most fascinating things about purpose at Medtronic is that the company makes conscious use of symbolism and ritual. Employees don’t just hear about the company’s mission, they get rewarded and recognized for having lived it. Since 1974, a special in-house “mission and medallion ceremony” is held several times a year at facilities all over the world as a reminder of the recognition and responsibility recipients get for helping fulfill the company mission. Dani, Stacia, and Chris find this significant, and wonder if deliberately explicit ways of cementing purpose like this is something other organizations would do well to adopt.
How L&D can help
As a CLO, Jeff is convinced Learning and Development (L&D) plays a key part in consolidating purpose. A big takeaway is that L&D might play an important role in creating the space and time for the ceremonies that can anchor purpose work, as well as developing curricula and resources that support the company’s mission. This approach may mitigate the danger that purpose statements become just documents that can be misinterpreted, and instead promote the constant organizational conversation that is needed for purpose to work.
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