Lessons Learned as an
In Part I of this this series on “Lessons Learned as an Organization Remodeler,” I (1) shared with the readers of this column the experiences which I felt qualified me to call myself an “organization remodeler,” (2) explained that the lessons I had learned as an organizational remodeler led me to the conclusion that the keys to having an effective organization are the development of:
• The correct organizational design,
• A clear and compelling vision and mission,
• A well-coached team of talented and highly motivated individuals,
• A culture based on effective communication, collaboration and shared values, and
• A strategy for developing each of the above.
and (3) discussed why organizational design is important.
In Part II, I described the various types of organizational designs and the strengths and weaknesses of each.
In this month’s column we will focus on “having a clear and compelling vision and mission.”
For a number of years now, MBA has been conducting training, providing technical assistance and facilitating strategic planning initiatives with a variety of organizations. One of the
things that we have discovered is that a number of executives have not learned the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement. We often see organizational vision statements that are actually mission statements and organizational mission statements that are actually vision statements. We also see well intended vision and mission statements that are uninspiring, confusing, and so long that they are impossible for anyone to remember.
You may be asking yourself, “Why does it matter if there is confusion about vision and mission statements, or if they are written in a certain way?” The answer is that a study by Bain and Company indicated that organizations that have clearly defined vision and mission statements that are aligned with a strategic plan outperform those who do not.
That being said, let’s clear up any confusion between what a vision statement is and what a mission statement is.
A Mission statement:
• Defines the present purpose of an organization;
• Answers the questions about why an organization exists.
o What it does
o For whom it does it, and
o What the impact of doing it is.
• Is written succinctly in a few sentences, and
• Is something that all employees should be able to articulate upon request.
Some examples of effective mission statements are:
• Erie Insurance: “To provide our policyholders with as near perfect protection as is humanly possible and to do it at the lowest possible cost,”
• Nature Air: “To offer travelers a reliable, innovative and fun airline to travel in Central America,”
• Nissan: “Nissan provides unique and innovative automotive products and services that deliver superior, measurable values to all stakeholders in alliance with Renault.”
• Mel Brown and Associates: Equipping individuals and organizations to accomplish their visions, missions and goals.”
Some organizations periodically refine their mission statements based on changing economic realities or unexpected responses from consumers. For example, some companies are launched to provide specific products or services; yet, they later realize that changing what they do, who they do it for, or the impact of doing what they do will enable them to grow the business faster and more successfully.
Having a clearly defined mission statement helps employees better understand organization-wide decisions, organizational changes and resource allocation, thereby lessening resistance and workplace conflicts.
A Vision Statement:
• Defines the optimal desired future state – the mental picture of what an organization wants to achieve over time,
• Provides guidance and inspiration as to what an organization is focused on achieving in five, ten, or more years,
• Functions as the organization’s compass. It is what all employees understand their work every day ultimately contributes towards accomplishing over the long term; and,
• Is written succinctly in an inspirational manner that makes it easy for all employees to repeat it at any given time.
Leaders may change, but a clearly established vision encourages people to focus on what’s important and better under-stand organization-wide change and alignment of resources.
Some examples of effective vision statements are:
• Alzheimer’s Association: “Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s Disease.”
• Avon: “To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women – globally.”
• Norfolk Southern: “Be the safest, most customer-focused and successful transportation company in the world.”
• Microsoft: “Empower people through great software anytime, anyplace, and on any device.”
• Reston Association: “Leading the model community where all can live, work, and play.”
Effective vision and mission statements help clearly define the organization for organizational employees and for the community they serve.
The absence of vision and mission statements or poorly written vision and mission statements are lost opportunities for:
• Attracting/engaging/retaining talent;
• Building organizational culture; and,
• Increasing productivity while leveraging all resources to successfully implement a strategic plan.
Facilitating the vision and mission development process for our clients is one of the methods that MBA uses to equip individuals and organizations to accomplish their visions, missions and goals.