Have you ever wondered what might come up with if you were asked to write a short obituary for your company and your job? Other than it being a potentially cathartic experience for yourself, it also could help refocus your business’ culture and place in the world.
Josh Levine is co-founder of the workplace culture community Culture LabX and author of the book “Great Mondays: How to Design a Company Culture Employees Love.” He spoke to David Brancaccio about why writing your company’s obit could help you learn what you love — or don’t love — about your job and what your next career step could be as a result. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Maybe this thought experiment has inspired you to write your job or business’ obituary. Share them with us below.
David Brancaccio: So as an exercise, you’re urging people to write the eventual obituary of their company?
Josh Levine: Yeah, absolutely! The obituary exercise is something that helps leaders kind of get out of the day-to-day and explore the “why’ they’re in business. I don’t care how you have your company died, or how you want to predict that.
Brancaccio: Well you’re not supposed to write down, “I made a lot of money, and the return on investment was awesome.” That’s not what you’re talking about.
Levine: No, that’s not, absolutely. This is all to really help uncover a company’s purpose, and your purpose is why you’re in business beyond making money.
Brancaccio: Purpose, because you think that makes for a more nurturing workplace?
Levine: Well, nurturing, I think, is one thing, and certainly can deliver on that, but it’s a conceptual vessel for everyone to be able to get on the same page, to really find a place that is clear about what they want to do. And and it may not be for everybody, and that’s great — you don’t want to have the people who don’t believe in what you do join. But those who do are going to be attracted, and they’re going to be less vulnerable to leave and be poached by, maybe, headhunters. They want to join a mission they want to be part of, and that is ultimately what this exercise is meant to get at.
Brancaccio: It actually would be also instructive for a company if they tried to write its eventual obit and they came up with, “A self-centered bunch of jerks hell-bent on fleecing any customer they could get their hands on.” You may need to repurpose, right?
Levine: Yeah, of course. If you walk out of the room yelling, “I don’t really know what we’re supposed to be doing here.” Well, that’s a big finding. That’s a really important way to go, “Well, what should we be doing? How do we reposition? How do we reimagine what we’re doing so that we’re actually relevant in the market?” And it’s not just employees, it’s customers. They know. They understand. They can see what you’re doing, and they can decide to join that mission or ignore you.