A company's mission is more than just a statement. It's a guiding light to employees, a raison d'etre to investors, and a message to customers of what you stand for. 

In this Backstage Pass interview, aired on Nov. 24Appian (APPN -0.54%) CEO Matt Calkins explains why the company's mission is to elevate people and how that plays into its broader philosophy.

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Jeremy Bowman: If I could change, switch gears a bit, Tom and David Gardner, I think, like to say that leadership or management, and I'm paraphrasing here, are the most important quality in picking a stock in a success of the company. I'd just like to ask you a few questions around that. First of all, I didn't know actually that all four of the founders of Appian we're still there, that's definitely unique as you said. As the CEO running the business, what are you most passionate about? What motivates you the most?

Matt Calkins: I want to say that I think that the way Appian is run and the values that we put forward are as differentiated as our product. I think on the inside, Appian is just as unique and people don't perceive this from the outside, but we're apart from the typical organization. Appian's run to prioritize different values, we are like an experiment in the belief that an organization can have a mission, that it can be about more than just moving money from one account to another, we're really trying to change things. We want to be a pioneer, we want to be an inventor and along the way we want to have a positive influence on all those entities that align with us, be they customers, partners, or our own employees.

We found that on respect, our organization is built on trying to do a few beautiful things instead of trying to juggle as many balls as possible. We have an interesting prioritization method and we believe overall in dissent. We love a good argument, we encourage people to disagree because we know how to resolve following that disagreement. It's a typical thing at Appian, for everybody to speak their mind, everyone's voice be respected and then for us still to be able to pivot with the agility of a start-up and make a decision and rally around it and move. I think Appian has the tightest turning radius of any organization in our market and we pride ourselves on that. We can hear voices in all directions, we can resolve, and we can move.

Our software is not merely a business, it is changing the relationship between people and machines. We're part of a long legacy of technology that has affected the way people communicate their wishes to a computer. From the earliest computers, we've always struggled to find ways that we can express our wishes and instruct these machines as efficiently as possible and in as much of a human way as possible. Early on we had to settle for whatever language a machine would accept, but over time, we've made it more and more human, that's like the equilibrium of communication in shifting in the human direction. Appian is the next step in that progression.

We're able to empower people to communicate their wishes to a machine in very much the same way they would've explained their strategy to a team of humans. You can draw it on a whiteboard and you might draw it to look like a flowchart. You would say, this is what we want to do. That's what you can do now to a machine and it's so much faster to express yourself this way than it would've been through lines of code and typing. It is empowering. Appian's goal, if I got down to a single word, is to elevate. We're trying to elevate people to empower them to control machines, to collaborate with digital workers. We're elevating people, we're elevating through our belief in respect and dissent inside the organization and in the way we empower people to work with machines, to control them and to collaborate with them outside the organization.