Simon – The Who?..

I was privileged to participate as a judge in John Molson MBA International Case Competition.

One of the cases was about a disruptive furniture retailer. The two teams offered very different strategies and presented them with truly professional flair, trying to make the best use of the available data and churning out strikingly dense and flawless presentations in a very limited time.

One thing bothered me and I could not help asking either of the teams was: What do you think is the purpose of the company?

As if they were leading us through the forest, fast and certain, but, like Steven Covey in his famous book, I wanted to scream “Wrong forest!”

True, the participants could not use the internet, and the company Mission and Vision were not stated in the case material. Still, being a diligent consultant, would it not be the first thing to help the client with: Why are we doing this?

Judging by the answers, my question took both teams by surprise. Obviously, they had not thought about this high-flown soft b/s. Both teams, however, skated around and out of the issue in a very professional manner, offering nice and glib positive comments.

That shows that the contestants themselves have their own mission and vision clear: win the case, become a good candidate to join one of the Big Three consulting companies. Most likely, that has been the mission of their schools as well: churn out successful career managers… But that is beside the case.

Back on the ground, I was taken aback further by my fellow judges. When I focused my feedback on the primal significance of the business Goal – or The Why, as Simon Sinek puts it, or the Purpose suggested by Dan Pontefract,  their cautious response was: “Simon – who?..”

People, what am I missing here? Don’t you agree that the clear Purpose is what every business leader should define first?

As a minimum, does anybody else know what The Why is all about?

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