Empowered Purpose – A Precondition for Agility in an Age of Uncertainty

February 17, 2021 Stuart Tootal

The current and future workspace.   The determination of business leaders to navigate their firms through and beyond the Covid-19 is not in doubt.  However, even if they are veterans of change, integration of people, systems, and processes, along with cost reduction and regulatory attention now needs to be executed in the midst of an enduring crisis.  Future strategy also needs to account for variation in the resilience of their people and differentiation between generations, regions, and personal circumstance.  Many have been traumatised and appetites, tolerances, and expectations will vary.  If a vaccinated world, when it comes, heralds a return to the office, economics, workforce aspirations, and health considerations indicate that a high level of distribution will endure in the future workspace.

Purpose in uncertainty.   The perennial nature of this crisis has taught us that in uncertainty, organisations need greater purpose and empowerment of their people, especially when old-style management practices dependent on in-person presence cannot be applied.  Intent, roles, and tasks need to be scoped and communicated more effectively.  However, business narratives and missions are often obscure, lack structure and are poorly understood.  Collaboration is also harder in an environment where Zoom calls are not a panacea for productive collegiate interaction.  Significant decisions now need to be made, planned, and executed at all levels in much shorter time frames, with contingent resilience to accommodate rapidly changing situations.  Yet few firms have decision-making and planning methodologies that can be applied to every aspect of their business.

Covid-19 has also placed a spotlight on culture.  Defined by actions, rather than words and bureaucratic policy, it requires a shift from management to leadership.  Leaders are made not born, but leadership as a skill is rarely taught and should be.  Consequently, businesses must adopt different ways of thinking and working to repurpose their organisations and people, which requires new methodologies processes, tools, and skills.  Finding new methods to regenerate empowered purpose needs to start now.  The real enemy is not Covid-19, but time and opportunities to develop new business practices will be fleeting, as those companies that fail to seize the moment will be left behind by faster competitors.

To become an organisation with empowered purpose, a company needs a framework of the following six interrelated principles.  Each are essential to adapt to the demands of new ways of working:

  1. Mission purpose established in the form of a clear unifying intent running as a single narrative throughout the organisation, where everyone understands their part in the company’s mission and plan for operating in the current and future Covid-19 environment.


  1. Empowered colleagues where authority is delegated to allow teams permission to challenge, innovate and act within the intent of the strategic mission they have been given.


  1. Communication effectiveness in the form of directives and methods logically formatted to provide passage of timely and relevant information to empower decisions both down and back up the chain of command. Communication must be clear, concise, compelling and easily digested so that they are understood and inspire, while setting out ‘effects to be achieved’ so functions and teams can extrapolate their own tasks to support the overall mission.


  1. Collaborative mechanisms designed to promote collegiate practices, synchronise activity, and cut across silos to harness collective energy and diversity of thought, while generating accountability. Mechanisms require inter-team dependencies and clearly defined responsibilities of supported and supporting functions to be mapped out.


  1. Agile Decision-making and planning embedded as a common process, tooled, and scaled for use at every level of an organisation in situations where timely decisions are required. Designed, codified and contingent for changing circumstances, it should enable teams to pivot with pace and precision, when necessary, while being auditable and resilient to scrutiny.


  1. Right Behaviours, which reinforce organisational through embedded processes, tools, and techniques that facilitate bold action within the bounds of appropriate conduct and risk management, which is grounded in codified leadership skills and practice.


Impacts.   Partnering with firms in the services and digital sectors, we have found the adoption of this MECCAR framework and underpinning process, tools, and techniques has brought about positive change to their ways of working.  From generating more effective communication and collaboration with purpose and empowerment, to embedding faster decision-making and better leadership skills, the methodology has led to improved team performance in terms of greater productivity, agility, resilience, and well-being in their workforces.

The imperative and opportunity to find different and better ways of working is now more compelling than it was over a year ago.  During the first lockdown, Matero released ‘Mission Purposing Organisations through Crisis’, which advocated the value of leveraging military expertise of mission success in crisis.  Explaining why the above principles are what the military is very good at, it provides a powerful learning perspective for business that find themselves in uncharted perennial crisis territory.  Twelve months on, it is worthy of another read.

MECCAR: Mission Purpose, Empowerment, Communication, Collaboration, Agility and Right Behaviours (codified culture and leadership)


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Accountability, Action Orientation, Agility and Decency