Be a Corporate rebel with a Cause!

Johann Botha
7 min readJun 10, 2021

“Causes do matter. The world is changed by people who care deeply about causes — about things that matter. We don’t have to be particularly smart or talented. We don’t need a lot of money or education. All we really need is to be passionate about something important, something bigger than ourselves. And it’s that commitment to a worthwhile cause that changes the world.” — Steve Goodie.

In a previous article, I talked about the need to define the PURPOSE of the organization. Some organizations find that there needs to be something between their PURPOSE and their AIMS (or Goals) to help them create a short and medium-term focus.

For those organizations, we propose the use of CAUSES that supports the PURPOSE of the organization. Once reached or achieved, they will no longer need ongoing focus, not because they are no longer important, but because achieving them will make it an intrinsic part of the organization's being.

We find the use of CAUSES exceptionally helpful, but we also understand that others don’t!

A CAUSE is a statement of focus to achieve an ultimate organizational outcome. The realization of the outcome also has a timeline.

You may decide only to have one or more than one CAUSE. But don’t have too many — remember it’s a statement of focus. You can’t focus on ten things at once — maybe two, but definitely not more than three at any given time (our preference is still only to have one!)

CAUSES are not a replacement for a mission statement because they do not cover everything that an organization is doing — it is rather a means to focus on something significant that the organization needs to ensure happens!

Often these causes are about making the organization a better place to work and earn a living or about making it better to be a customer of the organization. Causes do not need to be altruistic, but it makes it much easier if they are.

A CAUSE starts to address some important HOWs to the WHY we defined as our PURPOSE. It, however, does not address all the HOWs of our strategy. They are not detailed HOWs but rather address some aspects of how, at a high level, we can progress on the journey to fulfill our purpose.

You may find it strange that we don’t talk about the detailed HOW at all in our strategic consulting conversations.

For us, a strategy is WHAT we will do in broad terms to get to our WHY! Nothing more and nothing less! It is not about knowing exactly how the detail is handled later, as we find out how we will practically make it happen.

We devolve detailed planning and action down the organizational hierarchy to the appropriate level where technical experts can deal with that level of detail!

It would be naïve to think that the board or exco will have the correct detailed level of operational insight or even data to define the detailed HOW.

We employ smart people — let them figure it out, and if they struggle, they can always come back and ask for advice (note, we did not say help).

The board or executive will never have a clear picture of new products and services that will fulfill the requirements for gaps we identified in our strategic planning, customers' needs, or coming up with the next disruptive idea.

The executive's job is to identify what stands in the way of us fulfilling our purpose, where the gaps are, what we need to stop doing, how we need to change, and leave the detail of what we need to start doing to all of those smart people we employ!

Why do we say that?

Because we believe that most workers today are knowledge workers, we employ them for their knowledge and technical expertise; leave them to get things done!

The likelihood that board members have all the technical skills necessary to do detained HOW planning is virtually zero. If you wanted to do that — all your functional specialists need to attend board meetings — imagine the chaos that will ensue!

But let’s get back to CAUSES; they are rather internal, broad topics with related AIMS (or Goals), translated downstream in the organization into a set of related activities.

If PURPOSE is the WHY we are here — then a CAUSE is one important WHAT we need to do to get done; AIMS and Goals are also WHAT, but this time the what we need to do to get it done.

CAUSES do not address all the HOW’S. Also, remember not all AIMS (what we need to get done) always belongs to or support a superordinate CAUSE; the cascade may be any one of the following:



Some AIMS of the organization will directly support the PURPOSE of the organization, and others will support CAUSES that support the PURPOSE of the organization.

One should rather see CAUSES as a high-level description of ‘programs’ or ‘initiatives’ (for the lack of better words) that will help us to bring about results that are in line with and underpin our PURPOSE.

CAUSES focus on MEANINGFUL CHANGE or TRANSFORMATION within the organization that has a measurable effect.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION is a CAUSE (once done, it becomes a principle, we are a digital organization that continuously evolves to create the best value for our customers, or something like that).

TO BECOME A CUSTOMER-CENTRIC ORGANISATION IS A CAUSE (once done, it becomes a principal — we are customer-centric).

MAKING MONEY FOR STAKEHOLDERS IS NOT A CAUSE (it is rather one of the AIMS of the organization, and it will continue to be one forever).

If you are a large organization or group — CAUSES spreads across ALL of your activities!

We suggest that when you define a CAUSE that you use the user-story format (words in brackets are optional):

We will CAUSE so that PURPOSE (or aspect of purpose or principle) is realized (by target date).

E.g., We will transform digitally so that we can continuously evolve to create the best value for our customers by financial year-end x.

Consider what we said about CAUSES so far.

It should be clear that when embracing or taking up a CAUSE, the intent is to facilitate a permanent and different outcome than the status quo, with a continual benefit for someone.

Why make it so complicated, you ask, if we don’t like the words vision, mission and goals? Why don’t you replace the terms with purpose, causes, and aims?

They are not replacements, because they are not the same; they have VERY different intended outcomes (except maybe for AIMS vs. Goals). And, we definitely don’t want the baggage vision, mission, and goals brings to the party! (Remember the BS statement in the PURPOSE article)?

Looking at what we said so far, what replaces our mission statement?


Today, most mission statements are convoluted statements with lots of ambiguity and are full of words like AND, ALSO, or MULTIPLE STATEMENTS flung together in a paragraph or two!

Believe me, no one will miss them, and no one actually cared in the first instance!

Digital Transformation as a CAUSE

“As The Economist recently noted, one of the most obvious consequences of the current Covid-19 pandemic will be “the infusion of data-enabled services into ever more aspects of life.” We expect digital transformation to be an even bigger imperative for organizations in the short-term future.” Becky Frankiewicz, Manpower Group

A recent Wall Street Journal survey found that digital transformation risk is directors, CEOs, and other senior executive’s number one concern. Of the nearly $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation initiatives in 2019, a full 70% of initiatives failed to reach their goals. The estimated waste was estimated to be $900 billion!

Why do most Digital Transformation efforts fail, and only a few succeed?

We said that Digital Transformation is a CAUSE.

It is something that every organization needs to get right if they want to be part of the 4th Industrial Revolution!

So what is this cause all about?

It’s NOT about the application of technology (alone), technology is just an enabler, and it’s not only about using game-changing disruptive methods (alone), those can help and serves to accelerate what you get done or want to get done.

‘Most companies fail because they think digital transformation journey begins with technology, ironically it ends with it.’ Techmend

It’s also not only about customers and customer needs; although the initiative should primarily be driven by customer needs.

It’s not about your organization; although any initiative not aligned with our purpose, causes, and aims of the organization will most probably fail.

Factors for Digital Transformation Success.

Like any good business text — we need a Venn diagram somewhere in the article LOL.

Successful Transformation only occurs when these three factors overlap!

We have touched on defining your Purpose, Causes and Aims. I have already published an article here on Customer focus. Next week I will talk a bit about disruption!

This article is part of a series exploring the use of Agile ADapT™, a Digital Transformation Method for incumbent organizations struggling to compete in the digital age.



Johann Botha

Johann Botha, a digital change provocateur & getITright® CEO. Transform & build organizational agility, & digital-age capabilities. Consultant, speaker & author