Do you work in a large organisation? Do you want to find more fulfilment and satisfaction, and make a difference there?

This guide, in the form of an easily-downloadable PDF, will give you a real insight into ways of making a difference in a large organization. It describes how you will not be alone in wanting to make a difference, as well as what can go wrong in some organizations that might need remedial action.

It looks at how you identify the values and purpose of the organization you work for, and how you go about aligning them with your own. In each of the examples there is a step-by-step guide to dealing with the situation, and making a difference. Finally, you are given the opportunity to follow the examples, and do the exercise for yourself.


How can I find fulfilment in a Large Organisation?

Excellent. You like – or, at least, you are content to put up with – the large organisation you work for.

But you’d like to make more of a contribution. You may find that though you’re incredibly busy, deep down you feel you’re only operating at half speed. You feel a bit of an observer – an outsider. You’re not living up to your potential – either as operator, or as a human being.

Something is preventing you making more of a difference there. Chances are, the organisation you work for is highly efficient in its area of activity, but you’d like to make a difference by helping it to contribute in some way more directly to the public good. You want to engage more with something worthwhile, so you can utilise more of your potential, and increase your enthusiasm and passion several notches.

Or again, you may feel the organisation is well intentioned, but you’re not sure it’s got its act together in understanding its purpose and fulfilling it effectively.

Maybe something that’s happening in the organisation jars with your conscience or conflicts with your principles. This can be very uncomfortable and upsetting. It may not be easy to address, but at least the challenge is clear. The ‘make a difference’ approach can also help here: we include an example (number four) later in this guide.

Your goal, then, will be to combine making a difference personally, and taking the organisation with you, if possible.

If you do not believe this to be possible, your goal may be to make a difference in spite of the organisation, if necessary.

If you work in an environment that already nourishes your soul – that’s a great starting point. You can still do more, and the Make a Difference Mindset will help you do so.

Why it’s important

Most people spend more of their lives at work than they do with their families.

This makes it important to get the most enjoyment and satisfaction you can while you’re there.

Maybe, it’s your calling or the job itself that you love. Or maybe it’s the people that are right, and you have a strong bond with them. Or it’s the situation which is right. Maybe it’s all three.

Whatever it is, something is good about where you work, and you find it, on the whole, rewarding and worthwhile. Already you may be productive and effective in what you do – just because you love it (or at least parts of it). You don’t need to be asked for extra effort – you walk the extra mile naturally, because you’re plugged into the purpose, or the people, or the situation, which is right for you.

Many research studies show that people feel compelled to put in their best efforts at work. Whether you are going the extra mile because you want to, or you feel the competitive pressure compels you to do so despite the fact that, deep down, you feel you’re operating at half speed, you are not alone.

A recent Daniel Yankelovich poll in the Unites States asked people which of the following three statements they most agreed with:

1. I have an inner need to do the very best job I can regardless of pay

2. Work is a mere business transaction; I work only as much as I get paid

3. Working for a living is one of life’s necessities. I would not do it if I didn’t have to

The result was surprising, but heartening. 78% agreed with the first view, 7% with the second, and 15% with the third.

In polls conducted, again in the US, by the Gallup Organisation and the National Opinion Research Center, 90% agreed, or agreed strongly, with the statement “I am willing to work harder than I have to in order to help this organisation succeed.”


So you are not alone in wanting to do more to help the organisation you work for succeed. You, by definition, because you want to make a difference, are a leader. And leaders are needed at all levels in all organisations.

You obviously recognise that work can sometimes be more drudgery than fun – it can even be alienating – but it can also be inspiring, and fulfilling. The drudgery can sometimes come from too much emphasis on processes and mechanistic goals. Mechanistic goals are goals which lack the emotional lift of a vision. Rather than being inspirational, they are restrictive, because they take little account of the bigger picture, or changes in the situation they are operating in. Such over-disciplined environments are seldom conducive to the development of leaders within an organisation.

The Make a Difference Mindset is essentially a leadership mindset. It seeks to see, and communicate, the bigger picture, and to enthuse others to understand it and live it.

The fact that your organisation may not appreciate the need for leaders throughout its structure should not deter you from fulfilling your potential for leadership. To survive and thrive in today’s rapidly changing world, any organisation needs constant renewal and re-invigoration. This renewal and re-invigoration comes from leadership at the top, reflected and confirmed by leadership dispersed throughout the organisation.

If your leaders are inert and uninspiring, do not despair. The leadership vacuum will leave you an opportunity to flourish and develop the leadership needed to make the difference you decide needs making.

You will have ideas on how to make things better, and will be supportive of making good ideas happen, wherever they come from. You are creatively engaged, but you want to be more engaged.

The “but” probably comes from the fact that most organisations lose the inspirational energy of the founder as they grow. Smaller organisations, where the founder is still active on a day-to-day basis, respond to the personal leadership of a man or a woman who has built it, and still loves it with a passion.

Once the founder or founders is gone, that passion tends to subside, and decisions are made from the head, rather than the heart. The culture tends to drift, the colour of the founder’s beliefs and passions start to fade, or migrate into new shades. Those who remain develop the organisation as best they can, but most find it difficult to maintain the same level of inspiration.

Vision and values

One consequence is that organisations try to develop purpose and mission statements, and definitions of the organisation’s values, to replace the often unexpressed ones of the original founders. The founders knew what they were doing by instinct. They didn’t need to write down their purpose in cold prose.

In Collins and Porras’s book ‘Built to Last’, their classic analysis of what they termed “visionary companies “ they stated, “We did not find an explicit and formal statement of purpose in all of our visionary companies. We sometimes found purpose to be more implicitly or informally stated.”

In the 2006 McKinsey study (Managing your Corporation by the Evidence), which looked at 231 global businesses, identified three distinct but complementary management practices essential to performance, which again pointed up the importance of vision. The three practices were:

1. clear roles
2. an inspiring vision
3. an open and trusting culture

So a clear vision (which is a way of defining purpose) is crucial, whether it is articulated in a written statement, or felt, or best of all, lived.

If you have been already been through the process of defining your personal values and purpose, you will know that it is not only challenging, but it is dynamic. Things change, situations alter. You need to adapt and evolve. Once you know your purpose and values intimately, you feel them in your heart.

Sure, writing them down helps clarify them. It’s part of nailing something which can be elusive. The problem with large organisations is that purpose, mission and values statements are so hard to define that they tend to be top down. A small group of executives sits down and knocks them out, and then they are cascaded down the organisation. By the time they reach the grass roots – if they do – they tend to be disembodied. They are just words.

The only purpose, missions, values statements that count are those that manifest themselves in the behaviour of all your colleagues, all the time.

This is the top and the bottom of it.


Before you start to decide how you will make a difference within your organisation, you must do the preliminary personal work that you’ll find in the book, or elsewhere on the website. Without this, moving on to making a difference at work will be a waste of time, because you won’t know what you are trying to achieve, or why you are trying to achieve it.

Once you have done this, and you’ve found out who you are, you will have decided whether you want to be a Beneficial Presence, a Difference Deliverer, or Difference Driver. You will also be making sure you are, day by day, growing into your true self, and becoming passionately identified with your purpose.

Once you know who you are, what you stand for, and what your purpose is, your can then move onto making a difference at work.

Your next goal, if appropriate (i.e. you are a Difference Driver or Difference Deliverer), is to take others with you.

As identified earlier, the fact you want to make a difference means you are a leader. The Make a Difference Mindset, is essentially a leadership mindset. It seeks to see, and communicate, the bigger picture, and enthuse others in turn to understand it and live it.

The leader of your organization, or your department, may not appreciate the need for leaders at all levels. If this is the case, then they are wrong. The fact they may not appreciate the need for leadership qualities in others is likely to severely inhibit their chances of long-term significant growth and success.

The first step in taking others with you is to go through the process of understanding your personal values and purpose. You have probably already done this. Once you understand these in your heart, and can feel the passion they engender, it is time to see how they fit into your job within the organisation you work for, and the values and purpose of that organisation.

The next step is to apply the same process to your place of work. You will need to examine your Domain, Activities and Values in the context of your organisation, in the same way you did for yourself as an individual.

In the case of the first two areas – domains and activities, it will be more straightforward than for your personal analysis. The Domain will probably be self- selecting, as your area of work will be determined by your qualifications, skills and current job specification (although you may decide you want to change this in the light of what you discover from your values mapping).

The Activities (the things about your job you like doing) are highly relevant. Here you will identify clearly the things you do in your work that you love, and get most satisfaction from. This will include not just the specific activities you are responsible for, but also other aspects of your involvement in your work – teamwork, people development, mentoring, work-related community work etc.

Activities, importantly, will also include things you feel sorry, or frustrated, that you haven’t got round to, or you aren’t spending enough time on. This may give important clues as to what you need to be concentrating on to fulfil your purpose better, and feel you are creating more relevant value. This in turn will lead to you feeling that your contribution is more valuable, and more valued (i.e. you are making a difference).

Next, you will then complete the Values Map for your organisation. The important thing about this is to identify what you believe to be the values that are lived day by day, not what it says in the mission or vision statement. You are analysing the culture of the organisation, not how it portrays itself in its publicity, or annual report.

Now comes the interesting bit. You superimpose the corporate map onto your personal map and see where the overlaps and alignments are. If there are none, you must think why this might be. Are your interests and values out of line with your employers’ to such an extent that long-term fulfilment working there looks unlikely?

More likely (because you enjoy working for the organisation, and like it) there will be convergences of interests and values. There will inevitably, however, be shortfalls and anomalies, which need thinking about.

If, for example, one of you values is helping others, and your organisation is more concerned with helping itself, then there is a challenge. But also an opportunity. If they are not sufficiently concerned either about their customers, or their staff, this will be a potential area that you can choose for making a difference.

In your Activities you will have identified what you like about your organisation or company. If it’s the people you like, and the teamwork you have developed, rather than the specific products or services it markets, then here again is an opportunity to make a difference.

Positive Purpose Alignment

If the purpose of your organisation – as it is defined by its mission statement, or in its daily behaviour – sits happily with your own, that is excellent. You can move onto the next stage, which is identifying your Stimulus.

If, on the other hand, there are some gaps that need filling in, you may need to restate your company or organisation’s purpose. This may sound subversive, but it is not intended to be. You are merely restating its purpose so that it fits better with your personal purpose, so you can operate more effectively for the organisation. This restatement must of course be ethical and in keeping with the desire to improve things, and make the world a better place. You should in no way subvert its purpose for you own gains.

Say, for example, you work for a mobile phone company, which has a vision such as:

– We aim to be at the cutting edge of technology, beating our competitors in breakthrough research and development

You may find this lacking in motivation for you personally. Restating the purpose of the company to something like the following, may help:

– We aim to lead in helping people use mobile phone based multi- media to communicate and understand each other better

Such a vision of the organisation’s purpose may be more stimulating and engaging for you. Helping human beings relate better to each other is more involving than being good at technology. It has more meaning.

So restate your organisation’s purpose in a way that you find stimulating and worthwhile.


In going through the steps of working out how to make a difference, you will find a stimulus very helpful. This stimulus will help to reinforce your part in the organisation’s purpose. It will help get the juices going, when your energy levels are low, or office politics seem to be getting in the way of the organisation operating effectively.

Your stimulus may be close at hand, or you may have to conjure up your own mental picture, to ensure you get a strong emotional buzz every time you return to it.

The stimulus is what moves your purpose – the meaning you find in you work – from your brain to your heart. Up to 80% of the work you do on Values Mapping, Purpose definition etc will be brain work. The stimulus helps you get it from your head to your heart, so you deliver the concept (the difference) effectively.

If you work for an organisation where the purpose is worthwhile, but does not excite and engage you at a high level personally, you might want to find a stimulus at a level closer to your own responsibility, and purpose. If, say, it is teamwork, or development of key workers, that engages and fulfils you, then create your stimulus here.

Recall moments of high satisfaction when your team was successful, or when colleagues you had helped to develop were recognised for their achievements. Have a mental picture – with as much sound and colour and intensity you can muster – that lifts you every time you think of it.

It’s your personal hot button that will remind you why you are striving to make the difference you have decided on at work. Tailor the stimulus to fit your purpose and values in your own organisation, and your own situation within that organisation.

For some jobs the stimulus is obvious. If you work in a hospital, your stimulus might be the gratitude on the face of a patient, or on the faces of their loved ones. Or the joy of seeing someone dangerously ill returned to health.

If you worked for the mobile phone company described above, your Stimulus might be a picture you create for yourself, as you are unlikely to see the impact of the company’s purpose at first hand. You could, therefore, imagine the joy on a new grandmother’s face, seeing the photo of her new grandchild just sent to her on her mobile. This could be an uplifting manifestation of the purpose you have created for the company.

Example 1

In this example, we imagine that you work in a local government authority. The overall purpose of the organisation is to supply the most helpful and relevant services to the community at large, and this sits very comfortably with you. In this case, as quite often happens, the specific manifestation of the purpose is Stimulus led.

It can sometimes take a considerable number of years to find a purpose that really excites you. It may take several false turnings and cul-de-sacs before you find something to which you can wholeheartedly commit. Once you have it, you will move up from bringing 75% of yourself to your job, to bringing 110%.

In this example, the Stimulus is a neighbour whose son is knocked off his bike and seriously injured, resulting in the amputation of a leg. The boy was a talented sportsman, and will not now be able to fulfil his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

The accident excites your pity and sympathy for the boy, but also your profound anger. Because the organisation you work for is not seriously committed to developing the use of bicycles as a more healthy and environmentally friendly use of transport, bicycle lanes are poorly marked, and even more poorly thought out. They frequently disappear just when protection for the cyclist is most important – at crossroads, roundabouts and junctions. This leaves the cyclists feeling vulnerable at these key places, and motorists and large vehicle drivers irritated, as cyclists emerge from their lanes suddenly back into the main road, just when they are least expected.

Your Stimulus is aligned to your purpose of helping your fellow citizens in whatever way you can, so you decide to make a difference by radically improving the safety on cyclists in the area controlled by the organisation you work for.

The first challenge is that you work in Community Housing, which has no responsibility for roads or safety. You will therefore have to make your difference by changing policy outside your area of responsibility or authority.

This is a key opportunity for you to develop, and use, your leadership capabilities. The essence of leadership is that it is about influence, not position. It is the ability to get people to follow you, even when you have no direct authority over them.

So you state your Purpose and Stimulus thus:

  • Your Purpose: to improve radically the safety of cyclists in your area
  • Your Stimulus: the picture you conjure up of your neighbour’s son’s injured body, as he lay beneath car and bike

Example 2

In this example, we imagine you work in a retail branch of a large high street bank. You enjoy meeting the public in your work, but branch closures and productivity drives have made your work pressurised and process driven, rather than one of enjoyable interaction with the customers.

You worry about the service you are giving, particularly to the elderly, who are naturally slower than other customers to sort out their transactions, and often feel embarrassed because they are holding other customers up.

This is brought home to you dramatically one day as a relatively sprightly elderly customer eventually gets to the front of the queue, only to discover she has left her reading glasses at home, and is unable to read and fill in the form correctly to manage her transaction. She has come a long way on the bus, queued standing up for a long time, and has a panic attack at the thought of having to repeat the process the following day.

You manage to calm her down, and help her sort out her problems, but feel that something is wrong for things to reach this situation in the first place. You therefore decide to do something to make a difference.

You appreciate that you need to do something to make that difference in your own branch first, but believe that if you can get that to work, you want to get it rolled out to all branches.

So you state your Purpose and Stimulus thus:

  • Your Purpose: to help make elderly people feel more relaxed and welcome in your bank
  • Your Stimulus: the memory of the elderly lady’s needless panic attack in front of you in your branch

Example 3

In this example, you imagine you work in a middle management position in the home delivery arm of a large national retailer. You much preferred your previous position working in the stores, where the contact with the staff and customers was very fulfilling. You enjoyed face-to-face contact with people, solving their problems, and being constructively engaged in a worthwhile enterprise.

Your current job mainly involves the logistics of the operation – the correct picking of the goods, and their delivery across a wide geographical area.

You do the work analysing your values, and the activities that give you most satisfaction, and come to the conclusion your purpose is to do whatever it takes to give great to service to customers, and share the enjoyment of a job well done with your staff and colleagues.

Your Stimulus is quite clear. You recall clearly the satisfaction you got from your days as a management trainee working on the checkout. You managed to work far more quickly than the other checkout operatives, so unless the queues were very long on all the checkouts, you’d manage to pack the customers’ groceries for them, while still being quicker than anyone else.

The gratitude of most people, who stumbled to get the plastic bags open, let alone pack them with any speed, was massive. They could concentrate on getting their cash or credit cards ready, rather than feel panicked and generally incompetent.

So you state your Concept and Purpose in your new job environment thus:

  • Your Purpose: to rethink customer service to give more excitement and satisfaction to customers and staff
  • Your Stimulus: the buzz you used to get from delighted and grateful customers at the checkout

Even in the apparently human being-free context of the logistics operation you now work for you realise you can impact enormously on the satisfaction of both staff and customers. The pickers and packers affect satisfaction by their accuracy of pick, and how they deal with alternative products for out of stocks. The van drivers can make the difference between a satisfied customer and an angry one, by their timeliness, their attitude at the door, and their behaviour delivering the goods.

The overall mission statement of your organisation majors on customer service, but you feel, rightly, that your personal re-statement of it is more relevant to you, and one which will enable you to rediscover your old passion for the business.

Example 4

You have just joined the Buying Department of a large organisation. To your dismay you find a culture of acceptance of gifts that is foreign to the rest of the organisation, or any organisation you have worked for. The people concerned justify their actions by saying that strong relationships with suppliers are more important than the absolute cheapest price. When things go wrong teamwork to resolve problems overrides lowest price.

Of course, you recognise the importance of good relationships, but you also know bribery when you see it. You cannot collude in this corrupt culture. You know that the rest of the organisation would be shocked if they were aware of it. You decide that you must act, both for the sake of your own conscience, and for the reputation of the organisation.

Unfortunately, while basically honest and well-intentioned, the leadership of the organisation tend to look for an easy life, and are prone to brushing things under the carpet, rather than confronting them with courage.

  • Your Purpose is therefore clear: to convert the culture of your department to one of honesty and integrity
  • And your Stimulus: the anticipated feeling of pride and relief when you can honestly say that the department is ‘clean’

The Concept

The concept for exactly how you will make a difference will depend on your individual circumstances. It may be obvious, or it may need considerable thought.

Say you work for an organisation that is worthwhile, but is operating, in your view, well below its potential. Your concept in this case may be to create a body of elite staff to see if the performance can be step-changed. This step change can then be applied across the organisation, and you will have made a significant difference to its effectiveness, and the fulfilment of its purpose.

You will need to create the opportunity for this to happen. If you are part of the management, this will be easier to accomplish than if you are part of the executive staff. In either case, getting a team together – which may be in your own time in the early stages – will need your personal enthusiasm to be sensed and embraced by your chosen colleagues. You will need to make sure that your concept is clear. You will have developed a plan to channel enthusiasm more effectively, with a clear goal, a clear delivery mechanism, and appropriate recognition for your team if you succeed.

Example 1

Working through the example of the local government organisation you work for, your concept will evolve from your purpose and Stimulus. Your Purpose, remember, is to improve radically the safety of cyclists in your area, and your Stimulus is the picture you conjure up of your neighbour’s son’s mangled body, as he lay beneath car and bike.

You develop the following concept:

Ensuring uninterrupted bike lanes on all heavily trafficked roads.

You recognise that there may be considerable opposition from vested interests outside the organisation, and the supporters of existing policies within it. This is where courage and resilience– part of the Make a Difference Mindset – come in. You will need to marshal support, and stick with it in the face of considerable opposition, and possibly pressure from your direct boss or colleagues.

Example 2

Working through the example of the seemingly elderly averse bank you work for, again your concept will emerge from your purpose and Stimulus. Your purpose, remember, is to help make elderly people feel more relaxed and welcome in your bank, and your Stimulus is the memory of the elderly lady’s needless panic attack in front of you in your till window.

You develop the following concept:

A Bigger Smile for the Oldies.

Your personally will concentrate on giving each elderly customer a warm and welcoming smile, and will encourage your colleagues to do the same. Part of you conscious attempt to make elderly people feel valued and unhurried is the provision of reading glasses that can be borrowed by the customers.

You purchase two or three pairs of extremely inexpensive reading glasses of the most popular prescriptions at your own expense, and put up a simple, computer- generated sign saying “Forgotten your reading glasses? Borrow these!” Beside the glasses you place a prominent pack of germicidal wipes, to anticipate and avoid any health and safety issues.

Example 3

This example is of the national retailer, whose home delivery service you work for. Your Purpose, remember, is to rethink customer service to give more excitement and satisfaction to customers and staff. Your Stimulus is the feeling of the old buzz you used to get from delighted and grateful customers at the checkout.

You develop the following concept:

The extra mile makes the journey happier for everyone

The concept is straightforward. The stock controllers, and pickers and packers making extra effort to stock and pick the right things, and select substitute goods for out of stocks sensitively will lead to fewer returned goods and complaints. Which in turn leads to less hassle, more job satisfaction, and happier customers. Van drivers ringing ahead on their mobiles to regular customers to check they are in, and building up constructive and friendly relationships, takes more effort, but is rewarded by more job enjoyment and happier customers.

Example 4

This example is of the buying department that has allowed its probity to be destroyed by accepting large gifts from suppliers, and accepting their inducements to do business with them.

Your stimulus is to re-instate a culture of integrity, so you can once more work with pride, rather than shame.

You’re not naïve: you know it’s not easy being a whistleblower. You are likely to encounter extreme resistance from those whose employment and income you are threatening. (For your own protection, you would want to compile an objective dossier of what you discover. This would only be circulated – to the board – if you don’t succeed in making the difference in other ways.)

But you believe that most of the people who are behaving dishonestly in your department are not naturally corrupt. Indeed, you suspect most of them are deeply unhappy with the culture, and would welcome a positive change.

You develop a simple concept: Cleaner buying is better buying

The concept is straightforward. You quietly but firmly make it crystal clear to your colleagues and the suppliers you are responsible for that you are only interested in the best overall deal for the organisation, and will accept no inducements of any sort. Most of your colleagues are greatly relieved that someone is taking a stand, and follow your example. Others do everything in their power to undermine and impede you.

Branding the Concept

At first sight branding your concept within your organisation may seem inappropriate. This is not the case. The benefits of branding are still highly relevant. Branding a concept makes it much more likely the concept will have been well conceived and thought through. Attempting to brand a woolly or weak concept will reveal its wooliness and weakness, better than any other probing and testing.

Getting the brand right, and building its trustworthiness over time has three benefits. At first sight, you wouldn’t think it appropriate to brand something as uncommercial as a charity. But take Amnesty International, Red Cross, Greenpeace, Medecins Sans Frontiers, or any major established internationally branded charity, and you will find the brand name has the following benefits:

  1. It is an effective calling card which opens doors (imagine trying to get past some governments to provide help, or lobby for action on human rights, environmental protection without a major brand name behind you)
  2. It creates a sense of identity for workers within the organisation, and for fundraisers (it provides a shorthand, saving long explanations about what its purpose is)
  3. It provides reassurance and trust for donors (who can be confident that funds will not be misappropriated, or find their way into the pockets of corrupt middlemen)

These benefits won’t all apply to you and your initiative in your organisation, but the essentials of clarity, trust, and recognition will.

What branding will give, assuming the concept to be strong, will be a distinctiveness, colour and texture to the concept, and will make it more motivating, and more memorable.

If necessary, it may be helpful to position the brand in the context of its being a project. “Project Customer Love”, for example, may be a more acceptable approach to communicate a brand whose concept is a new and focused approach to energising productivity.

Example 1

The local government authority you work for needs a quickly understood focus, and emotional engagement (brand), for the initiative (the Concept) you are undertaking to make a difference. The difference you will make will save lives and maimings, and enhance the reputation of your organisation as a listening, caring, and action taking, branch of government.

To recap, your Purpose is to improve radically the safety of cyclists in your area, and your Stimulus is the picture you conjure up of your neighbour’s son’s injured body, as he lay beneath car and bike.

The concept you developed is to Ensure uninterrupted bike lanes on all heavily trafficked roads. Because there is likely to be considerable opposition to your initiative, you think long and hard about the branding of it. Although you are not entirely happy with it, this is your brand:

Bike lanes for Unbroken Bodies

This may not be the final definition of the brand. Because of the opposition, you will need to build a strong team to achieve your goal of changing policy, and getting the organisation to commit money to make it happen. You decide to involve your team in the ultimate definition of the brand – both to benefit from their contribution, and to ensure they feel involved in the genesis of the project.

Example 2

Your purpose for the branch of the bank you work for, remember, is to help make elderly people feel more relaxed and welcome, and your Stimulus is the memory of the elderly lady’s needless panic attack in front of you in your till window.

The concept you developed is a Bigger Smile for the Oldies, and you are providing reading glasses for those elderly customers who have forgotten theirs, to make them feel more relaxed and valued.

The brand you develop is:

The Big Warm Oldie Welcome

The brand feels right to you, and partially as a result of stating it so clearly, each time you see an elderly person reaching the front of the queue you can’t wait to give them a warm smile and a genuine welcome. You know they feel less pressurised and, in a small way, a more valued member of the community.


Example 3

This example is of the national retailer, whose home delivery service you work for. Your Purpose, remember, is to rethink customer service to give more excitement and satisfaction to customers and staff. Your Stimulus is the feeling of the old buzz you used to get from delighted and grateful customers at the checkout.

Your concept is the extra mile that makes the journey happier for everyone; you develop from it the following brand:

The extra mile smile

This is the brand that all your colleagues can rally round. The additional positive, and enjoyable, energy you create for the entire team will mean the extra mile smile will extend through all parts of the supply chain. The result will be improved efficiency and greater enjoyment and satisfaction for all concerned, from staff through to customers.


Example 4

Things are getting pretty tricky in your buying department, where people are polarising between those who are prepared to change and those who are still encouraging and accepting suppliers’ gifts. To bring your position into even greater focus you develop the following brand:

Cleaner, leaner, better

Having a brand means going public with your concept. You declare your hand unambiguously by putting this statement on both communications within the department, and all communications with suppliers, especially briefs and specifications. You also invest your brand with authority by tying it into the concept of ‘lean thinking’, a proven process transformation tool for supply chains.

Put a date on it

Putting a date on making it happen will make it happen. It may not happen by the date you put on it, but it will happen. No date = very unlikely to happen.

The date needs to be agreed with everyone in your team, however large or small that team might be.

In most cases in large organisations it is not just a date. Because accomplishing anything can take time – different departments may be involved, and corporate cultures can be slow to accept change – you may need to map out a more detailed timetable of action to achieve the difference you intend to make.

When each date arrives, a review needs to take place to evaluate whether the goal has been successfully achieved, or the project is producing the agreed results.

Here then are our four examples, fully worked through to include dates and action plans.

Example 1

You work for the local government authority that has little interest in cyclists, or their safety. The difference you will make is to save lives and maimings, and enhance the reputation of your organisation as a listening, caring, and action taking, branch of government.

Your purpose: to improve radically the safety of cyclists in your area

Your stimulus:the picture you conjure up of your neighbour’s son’s injured body, as he lay beneath car and bike.

Your concept:to ensure uninterrupted bike lanes on all heavily trafficked roads

Your brand:Bike lanes for Unbroken Bodies

Your dates:

  • 3 weeks to assemble core cross-departmental team of Difference Deliverers (cyclists, sympathisers, enthusiasts for the health and environmental benefits of cycling)
  • 2 weeks to agree the Concept, finalise the Brand, and set date for change of policy/action to be taken (3-6 months, depending on the situation)
  • 4 weeks to marshal wide scale support (emails, forums, blogs, marches, local press/TV support)

You will then need to agree a programme to sustain the pressure over time, to ensure the date to achieve action is met (as nearly as possible).

During this programme, you must expect setbacks, and possible unpopularity within your department. People senior to you may resent your activity, and feel it inappropriate to go outside the silos they operate in. Because they are probably managers, rather than leaders, they are defensive of their area of authority, and find it difficult to deal with leaders, who tend to look beyond their current silo, and see the bigger picture.


Example 2

You work for the high street bank that has rationalised processes and branches until its retail customers feel like cattle, and none more so than the elderly. You have started small in your own branch, but you want to make the difference you are making more widely effective.

Your purpose: to help make elderly people feel more relaxed and welcome

Your stimulus: the memory of the elderly lady’s needless panic attack in front of you at your till window

Your concept: A Bigger Smile for the Oldies (and providing reading glasses for those elderly customers who have forgotten theirs, to make them feel more relaxed and valued)

Your brand: The Big Warm Oldie Welcome

Your dates:

  • 3 weeks to convince by your example others in your branch to make the same difference
  • 2 months to convince HR and Customer Services Departments to adopt the concept and the brand
  • Simultaneously to build up pressure to adopt the initiative by collateral activity – discussion forum on bank intranet, if available
  • blogs on bank website/alternative websites
  • coverage in local/national press/TV if possible
  • work with sympathetic colleagues to devise other means to
  • publicise and extend the brand


Example 3

This example is of the national retailer, whose home delivery service you work for. You are going to transform a stressed, process driven environment into positive and enjoyable one for all concerned.

Your purpose: To rethink customer service to give more excitement and satisfaction to customers and staff

Your stimulus: The feeling of the old buzz you used to get from delighted and grateful customers at the checkout.

Your concept: The extra mile makes the journey happier for everyone

Your brand: The Extra Mile Smile

Your dates:

  • 3 weeks to assemble team of key leaders and operatives in each section of the operation
  • 4 weeks for briefings and programme development to engage all staff members
  • Thereafter monthly appraisals of feedback and progress.

Example 4

You have joined a buying department and want to transform them into a high-integrity team.

Your Purpose: To convert the culture of your department to one of honesty and integrity

Your Stimulus: The anticipated feeling of pride and relief when you can honestly say that the department is ‘clean’

Your concept: Cleaner buying is better buying

Your brand: Cleaner, leaner, better

Your dates:

  • Immediate – put the brand on all stationery going to suppliers
  • 3 weeks – draft or redraft an official buying policy including a statement of ethics. Launch the policy. Train all buyers. Send a copy of the policy to all suppliers. Announce an internal audit for a month later.
  • Immediately before the audit: check on progress. If all suppliers are now complying with the new buying policy, that’s fine. If not, the audit should reveal it, and you may also wish to release your dossier.


Your Purpose: Restate your organisation’s purpose in a way that gives it personal meaning, and which you find stimulating and worthwhile:

Your Stimulus: Recall moments of high satisfaction when your team was successful, or when colleagues you had helped to develop were recognised for their achievements.

Have a mental picture – with as much sound and colour and intensity you can muster – that lifts you every time you think of it. It’s your personal hot button that will remind you why you are striving to make the difference you have decided on at work.

Your Concept: This is your idea or your solution to a challenge that your organisation faces. It may be obvious to you, or it may take a lot of thinking about. You may find it helpful to think about the challenge first, and research possible solutions. Or you may want know what you want to do, and concentrate on making the case for it. Be aware that it may take bravery and determination to voice the idea and persist with it.

Your Brand: If you can find the right brand for your concept, you’ll find that people accept that concept more quickly, happily and confidently. And they’ll remember it too. Yes, it’s a slogan. But it can affect all the associations that people have with your concept. It’s worth getting it right.

Your Date: Very simple. What will you do by when? When are you willing to be held to account?



Our examples, of course, are imaginary situations, and real life is often more complex, and more difficult. The examples do, however, give an insight into the process of the Make a Difference Mindset, and the thinking you’ll need to do to make it happen.

Remember throughout the process that Integrity – the heart of character – is as important in the organisational field as it is in the personal one. Integrity means being answerable – for your attitudes, for your behaviours, and for fulfilling your objectives.

If you don’t succeed first time at making the difference you want to make – don’t give up. The way to success in most fields of human activity is paved with failures. Re-group, and work out how you’ll be successful next time. And put another date on it. Keep going, learning from each setback. Eventually you’ll succeed.

Once you are successful in achieving your objectives – well done. Take a bow – pat yourself on the back, and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment. You deserve it. And then move on to the next difference you are going to make ….


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