What is my purpose?


Peter Drucker declared in his 1954 book “The Practice of Management” that the purpose of a business is to create a customer. In today’s post I will talk about purpose, specifically what do I think my purpose is at work? There is of course the utilitarian answer about my purpose at work – to fulfill my job duties/responsibilities. However, fulfilling the job duties/responsibilities does not always complete my purpose.

The purpose is to create/increase value in anything I do:

Peter Drucker in the book “The Practice of Management” talks about understanding customers. He notes that the manufacturer of gas kitchen stoves should not consider himself to be in competition with only other gas kitchen stove manufacturers. The customer is not just buying a stove. The customer is looking for the easiest way to cook food. There are many forms of stoves/utensils available to the customer that are in direct competition. There are several different ways to cook food including microwave ovens, cooking ranges, grills, etc. Ignoring them will result in loss of business. This example may be outdated. However, the core idea is applicable here. If you are simply fulfilling just your basic job duties/responsibilities, you are like the gas stove manufacturer. You will not grow and develop yourself if you just stick to your defined duties/responsibilities and you will eventually get passed by.

Your purpose is to create/increase value in anything you do. From a Toyotayesque philosophy, this is similar to the Continuous Improvement attitude. You are always trying to improve what you are doing. You are expanding your boundaries and you have a responsibility to develop yourself. One of the two pillars for the Toyota Philosophy identified in the Toyota Way 2001 is “Continuous Improvement”. The first key concept for “Continuous Improvement” is the “Spirit of Challenge”. In Jeffrey Liker’s “The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership”, Liker talks about the Spirit of Challenge as follows;

“Like the two founding Toyoda family members, every Toyota leader is expected not just to excel in his current role but to take on the challenges to achieve a bold vision with energy and enthusiasm.”


The two Toyoda family members are Sakichi Toyoda and Kiichiro Toyoda. I have referenced them in my last two posts. It is likely that Liker meant every Toyota employee when he said Toyota leader. This type of thinking is instilled from an organization standpoint. To quote Peter Drucker again;

“Most people need to feel that they are here for a purpose, and unless an organization can connect to this need to leave something behind that makes this a better world, or at least a different one, it won’t be successful over time.”

Toyota has a core concept of True North. True North is your ideal state. You can never truly achieve this. However, it is your responsibility to strive moving towards your True North.

Final Words and a story on purpose:

I am a firm believer of taking responsibility and authority to do the right thing, and to develop yourself. One must always try to increase/add value in what they do. Increasing value in what you do ultimately increases your value. This is the Spirit of Challenge. This is your inner purpose.

I will finish off with an anecdote, I heard from the Indian author Shiv Khera (in his words).

16 years ago in Singapore I gave a taxi driver a business card to take me to a particular address. At the last point he circled round the building. His meter read 11$ but he took only 10.

I said Henry, your meter reads 11$ how come you are taking only 10.

He said Sir, I am a taxi driver, I am supposed to be bringing you straight to the destination. Since I did not know the last spot, I had to circle around the building. Had I brought you straight here, the meter would have read 10$. Why should you be paying for my ignorance?

He said Sir, legally, I can claim 11$ but ethically I am entitled to only 10. He further added that Singapore is a tourist destination and many people come here for three or four days. After clearing the immigrations and customs, the first experience is always with the taxi driver and if that is not good, the balance three to four days are not pleasant either. He said Sir I am not a taxi driver, I am the Ambassador of Singapore without a diplomatic passport.

In my opinion he probably did not go to school beyond the 8th grade, but to me he was a professional. To me his behavior reflected pride in performance and character. That day I learnt that one needs more than professional qualification to be a professional.

Always keep on learning…

In case you missed it, my last post was Toyota Production System House – Just-in-Time (JIT) and Jidoka (Part 2).


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