By Daniel Robin
Vision and mission-making work can serve you in carrying out your
leadership role, unifying your efforts and building alignment and loyalty among employees.
However, far more important than having mission and vision statements is having a clear
mission and vision!
While en route to getting it clear, avoiding formulating any new goals
(in fact, you may want to slightly postpone a few to free up some time to focus). Once the vision
statement has been drafted, discussed, improved and accepted, it will guide decision
making and goal setting, saving you and others tremendous time and
effort in the long-run.
The benefits of clear vision and mission statements will be realized if
- speak to the organizations present condition
(including a "healthy stretch" toward a desired future),
- are written clearly in plain English, and
- are accompanied by grounded action that
brings the intentions to life, and makes the work as the statements
are put to use.
Making a statement memorable and inspiring is
optional, but a helpful intention. If these conditions are being met, then you can go forward with
communicating this important information to everyone in the organization and, if
appropriate, the outside world. Such written statements can be used to develop a clearer
position in the marketplace, for strategic planning, and to quickly
qualify job candidates and orient new-hires. If the
statements are implemented as a tool for dialogue and feedback, the content need not be
presented as the definitive "final word" but rather a (perpetual) working draft.
Often a source of confusion, in case youre curious about the differences between Vision, Mission
and Objectives, they are outlined below:
VISION -- What business are we in? Whats possible?
Vision defines a desired future and helps guide all who accept
and understand it. Shared vision is the 3rd discipline in Peter Senges
classic, The Fifth
Discipline, and can be a tool for building a sense of commitment by "developing
shared images of the future we seek to create." Another
excellent book and resource to visioning and mission-making is the
latest book by Stephen Covey, The
8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness.
This brings up an important question: whose vision is it? A
CEOs personal vision can automatically become "shared vision" in a
workplace -- temporarily, due to positional power -- but for it to have lasting power,
that vision must be made explicit (written down), with skillful discussion among the
organizations key players. In other words, the CEOs ideas are key to unlocking
the organizations potential; however, by involving more stakeholders, that potential
will be deepened, and carried out based on personal commitment. Without a clear vision in writing,
stakeholders operate more on assumption than on fact, and buy-in will be limited.
A marketplace-oriented vision, serving to explain what business you
are in, can be framed around answering the questions "What crying
need do we satisfy?" or "What market pain do our
products or services resolve?"
Unlike goals, but similar to a mission, vision has no deadline --
no "by when." It can be as precise as the response to the
question "Where are we heading
this year?" or as lofty as "If we could develop exactly the kind of company we
wanted, what would it be like?"
MISSION -- Why does this matter?
Working with Purpose and Meaning
An organizations mission or purpose is the answer to the
question "why?" Different questions will illicit different
facets or flavors of mission. For example
Why are we doing this? Brings out purpose, motives,
Whats vitally important about our work? Begins to
identify the values and interests that drive the organization.
With what aspects of this work do I most identify? Is
there a cause or purpose -- the bigger picture -- beyond the work
In a way, a
"mission" is the motivational aspect of vision: it defines and clarifies "why does the
vision matter?" and implies a set of governing values or
Some organizations prefer to define their "core
values" explicitly, and lately we've seen clients focus on a Code
of Ethics to make operational ... either way, mission and values both define what is
important to the individual, department or enterprise.
Much of what motivates and
inspires people to make meaning and take action is contained in this
"why" aspect. A mission statement is usually meant to define internal motivation
-- its meant to align and engage the agents or actors in the organization -- rather
than helping define an orientation to outside customers. The
customer-centered or marketplace equivalent to a mission statement is
usually contained in materials designed to promote the brand's purpose
or corporate image as part of a reason for doing business, for public
relations purposes or to attract employees or investors.
That's an external message (still often called "mission" by the
PR dept.) defined in terms of
the target market or the competition. This type of statement
will not be useful for aligning workplace structures, systems,
processes and cultures. It is more like an advertisement, and
can be effective when it represents an operational reality,
communicates honest values, and helps the audience make meaning.
A mission or purpose
statement defines why it all matters to employees, contractors,
partners, and management -- the internal "customers."
As a mission reflects human
motivation, hopefully it helps people feel good, maybe even to
feel inspired, about it. It must be kept current and
alive; check to see if your mission, once defined and in writing, still holds true 6 - 12
months later. Missions will change as priorities and business
conditions change, after mergers or acquisitions, or other significant
Questions to ask that will get at mission and purpose:
- Why are we doing this?
- Why does this work [our work] matter?
- Whats most important about this work?
- What will it do for us to fulfill our vision or strategic
priorities? Why do our goals matter?
- What is our unique role? How do we "make a
difference"? For whom? How will we benefit? Who else benefits?
Contact us for a stepwise process for
clarifying mission and purpose, or to discuss your situation.
VALUES, Principles & Beliefs
Everyone and every organization has values. The question is
(a) are they clear (known to you and to other key stakeholders), and
if so, (b) are you living according to them? Celebrate where
your values and your actions are in alignment and look for areas where
you value one thing but regularly do another. What are biggest
gaps? What could you do to begin to close those gaps?
Often people end up in roles that do not reflect their values, or
working for a company or boss that conflicts with their values.
First comes clarifying why there's a mismatch, then rational and
appropriate action can be taken to improve the situation. Values
are so intrinsic, ingrained and invisible (until they are surfaced)
that we experience all the downstream effects without knowing the true
cause. This tension and confusion can make intelligent actions,
let alone informed decisions, nearly impossible.
Our coaching clients use a handy tool that helps make surfacing and
using one's values easier and more rewarding. The big question
you can ask yourself about your values: "Which of these values am
I living today and where are the biggest gaps?" Contact
us for more information on how to clarify personal/professional
values and roles.
As mentioned previously, it is often useful to define governing, core
values, principles, or beliefs for the organization.
What's the difference?
underpin the organizations purpose and mission. Values might be
reflected in words like teamwork, contribution,
excitement, communication, quality .... Once a list feels
complete, go back and write a sentence that defines what each value
means to you or to the organization.
Principles such as
being "in service" to each other like internal customers
(value: respect), win-win (value: success), or shared power
(value: inclusion) ... have been central to successful corporate cultures.
Principles are more operational, more dynamic, and are more how the
world works, rather than how the world is, or how you wish it to
be. Again, once listed, be sure to define what they mean to you
or to the organization.
Beliefs are things that your or the organization
pre-supposes, assumptions about what is true. This is often
linked in with a corporate philosophy, vision of the future or
ideology. They usually begin with "We believe ..." and
capture some ethical or moral principle, inseparable from culture and
Where to Start ... Possible Next Steps
The first step is to get a rough idea of where you are now, and
then begin to develop the vision of where you want to go. An effort to
clarify your mission may also be necessary, and is optional if you dont need it for the outside world and if
employees are clearly motivated, focused on priorities, and conflicts are minimal. This depends on your culture and the size of your
organization. A common mistake is to establish goals and objectives
without first defining the "container" -- the vision,
mission, and values that underpin that mission must be evident.
Goals and objectives are essential ("If you don't know where you
are going, you could wind up anywhere!"), but vision, values, role
definitions, and systems of tracking results all serve as the
"container" for effective growth and development, and must be
first put in place.
ROLES & GOALS
Many organizations do not have clearly defined
roles for key
employees. Those roles must be mutually understood
"agreements" between management and the employees.
Some employees may play multiple roles (for example, project leader
and administrative assistant). It is often helpful to define
sets of goals in terms of each role that an employee plays.
Roles that are key to carrying out the vision and mission.
Who does what? What are the key responsibility areas?
Companies with complex operations may want to use Key Performance
Indicators (KPI) or systems like Balanced Scorecard to
continuously track and monitor results, systematically comparing what
was planned through goal-setting to the unfolding reality of actual
results. This is key to accelerated learning.
A handy shortcut for smaller business owners is to think in terms
of measuring one's success. What are (at least) three ways you'll
measure your success? This applies to the founder and can also
be used to build a "success culture." Multiple
"how you will know" measures assures at least some attention
to the quality of life, not just the money aspect. What good is
all the money if you are miserable? And the opposite is also
true: "Business without finance is a nuisance."
Mission making or remaking can provide a useful inclusion process
that brings forward what is essential, increases focus on desired
results, or addresses a motivation, morale (emotional engagement) or
turnover problem. Contact us to
discuss your situation.
using ABetterWorkplace FORUM