Purpose: Leading with & Leaning on our “Why”

August 21, 2020

By: Naseem Bashir

An organization’s purpose tells the world why it exists. It clearly communicates how the organization impacts people who use its products and services. A well-thought-out purpose does not simply state the products or services offered by a company but instead describes what impact the company makes in the largest context possible. It explains how the company is making a difference.

A higher purpose is not about economic exchanges. It reflects something more aspirational. Profit is not the purpose of a business; rather, it is the reward for delivering on its purpose.

A well-thought-out, authentic purpose matters because of its impact on setting both short-term and long-term business strategies. A company purpose also provides a clear vision for the entire company, assists with high-level decision-making, provides differentiation in the marketplace for customers, creates a sense of pride for current and potential team members and can inspire innovation.

Our purpose at Williams Engineering

At Williams Engineering, we understand the full impact of what we do, and this gives meaning and purpose to our existence. At Williams, our purpose is to brighten the lives of people in our communities by engineering sustainable cities that are safe, inclusive and resilient. We have aligned our purpose with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, which calls for businesses and organizations to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible infrastructure.

Globally, cities account for 60-80 percent of energy consumption and 75 percent of carbon emissions, although only 3.5 billion people live in cities. Engineering cities to be safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable will have a tremendous impact, especially considering projections that 5 billion more will be living in cities by 2030.   As a result, the decisions and actions engineers and technologists make at the design stage of new construction today affect the ability to achieve Canada’s low carbon emissions goal in the long term. Considering the lifespan of buildings, we need to design for low-carbon operations today at scale because retrofitting existing buildings before 2050 will be costly and difficult to achieve. Each day our engineers and technologists create solutions for our clients that consume less energy, have a lower carbon footprint, and use fewer materials. Our people make it a priority to help our clients understand why we need to design for the future.

We design infrastructure for the benefit of our communities. Our primary responsibility is to ensure designs are safe, meet all appropriate building codes and contribute positively to the environment.  Since safety is front and centre in our profession, including it in our purpose plays a role in helping us make decisions that improve the safety of communities that access the buildings that we design. Our team was able to be agile in adapting to uncertainties when COVID-19 first began impacting the cities and communities that we serve. It’s during uncertain times that purpose can be leaned on, and it can act as a reminder of what’s important to an organization. Our purpose reminded us why we do what we do, and it helped develop strategies that supported keeping our people and those we work with safe during these unprecedented times.

As we design cities of the future using smart technology, we understand that there is a risk of losing our society’s human aspect. Now more than ever, we need to design and build inclusive infrastructure that encourages people to interact and continue to share experiences and ideas for the future.  We speak of designing inclusive cities in our purpose because we want to be part of a process that creates buildings that accommodate all types of people. No matter the building we design, whether a civic centre, a recreational centre, a school, a library, a healthcare facility, a residential complex or a skyscraper, we understand that every design decision that we make has the potential to exclude or alienate people. Therefore, we always consider design details that will help everyone feel welcomed, comfortable and included.

How we zero in on our “why”

We understand for a purpose to matter; it needs to go beyond just a corporate initiative that sits on the sidelines. We understand that for a company’s purpose to matter, it needs to go beyond just a corporate initiative that sits on the sidelines. As a result, we put our purpose at the centre of our business model and build strategy and goals that align with our purpose, which ultimately is “why” we do what we do as a company. When we need to make an important decision, we only proceed if the outcome aligns with our purpose.  Therefore, we undertake strategic acquisitions and partnerships and make other decisions that further our purpose. Our goal is that our decisions brighten the lives of our people and the cities and communities that we serve.

To further emphasize our purpose, we have included part of it in our company’s core values. One of our six core values is to “live with purpose.” We encourage our teammates to live and lead with purpose each day!  We emphasize that all our actions and decision-making should be made with our purpose in mind.  We recognize that anyone within our company, who leads with purpose, is a true leader. By carving out a path internally for our teammates to realize their purpose and how it aligns with our company purpose, we create the capacity to translate our core purpose, our “why,” into reality.

No matter the job title or services we provide to each other or our customers, it is essential to realize that everyone at Williams Engineering contributes to making our purpose a reality. At Williams Engineering, we understand that our purpose is a journey and not the destination. We hope to contribute to creating a positive and sustainable future for all the cities and communities which we serve along the way.