What is Collective Ambition?

I am recently focused on new terms, especially if they relate to current interests. Today I came across the phrase, Collective Ambition. I like the sound of it. An article I was reading referenced the phrase and sent me to hbr.com to learn more.

“Collective Ambition – a summary of how leaders and employees think about why they exist, what they hope to accomplish, how they will collaborate to achieve their ambition, and how their brand promise aligns with their core values. These companies don’t fall into the trap of pursuing a single ambition, such as profits; instead, their employees collaborate to shape a collective ambition that supersedes individual goals and takes into account the key elements required to achieve and sustain excellence.”

I like this term because to me it takes understanding from a personal level to a united one and ensures that everyone involved is not just there to clock in and clock out and collect a paycheck. Being part of the bigger picture adds meaning and purpose at all levels.

But how do you go about achieving it?

Doug Ready at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and Emily Truelove from MIT Sloan School of Management have  identified the Seven Elements of Collective Ambition See their list below but results did not come from just printing and distributing it. The success comes from involving HR in every step.

  1. Purpose: The organization’s reason for being; why it exists; its core mission.
  2. Vision: The position or status an organization aspires to achieve in a reasonable time frame.
  3. Targets and milestones: The metrics used to assess the extent to which the organization has progressed toward its vision.
  4. Strategic and operational priorities: The actions an organization will take (and not take) in pursuit of its vision.
  5. Brand promise: The commitments an organization makes to its stakeholders (customers, communities, investors, employees, regulators and partners) concerning the experience it will provide.
  6. Core values: The guiding principles that dictate what an organization stands for in good and bad times.
  7. Leader behaviours: How leaders will act, day-by-day and in the long-term, to implement vision and strategy as they strive to fulfill their brand promise and live up to their values.

My question is how does a large corporation with a centralized corporate office make this sort of change at scale? How can this be effective when there are 80,000 employees and literally thousands of offices nationwide? How can a workforce this large have a nurturing relationship on a personal level and feel that their daily work experience is important, critical to the collective outcome? That they are key to accomplishing, achieving that brand purpose?


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