In last month’s article we defined the term “organizational culture” and introduced the first step in building or reshaping organizational culture which was to establish a mission which defines the organization’s purpose and provides meaning to the work employees do.
A reader of last month’s column suggested that it would be helpful to see some examples of good mission statements. As you read the mission statements below ask yourself does the statement tell what the organization does, for whom it does it and what the impact of doing it is? Is it written succinctly so that any employee could recite it upon request?
Google: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”
Amazon: “to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online”
At first glance, “to find” and “discover” might seem redundant. However, the language is purposeful because Amazon is hoping people might discover something that they were not looking for in the first place, but catches their interest while browsing.
Mel Brown and Associates: “to equip individuals and organizations to accomplish their visions, missions, and goals”
Every service Mel Brown and Associates provides (leadership development coaching, mentoring, training, organizational assessments, program evaluations, staff development, conducting management studies, contract monitoring, facilitation of processes for vision and mission development, policy and procedure development, and executive searches, strategic planning, etc.) is to equip our clients to accomplish their visions, missions and goals.
In his article, “How to Create a Cohesive Company Culture,” Ryan Howard wrote, “When crafting your mission statement, aim to be energizing, aspirational, and memorable. Don’t get bogged down with fluff and buzz words that are vague and meaningless. Get to the point. If your employees can’t relate to it, then your mission statement won’t mean much to your customers either. Also, make it concise. If you can’t say it in a sentence or two, you haven’t nailed it.”
In building or reshaping an organization’s culture, not only should the organization have a well-written mission statement to provide a clear purpose and meaning, it must also have a well-written vision statement to provide direction.
In his book, Visionary Leadership, Burt Nanus points out, “There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared.”
A vision statement is a concise, compelling description of the organization’s desired future state. It is a mental image of what the organization wants to be in 5, 10 or more years. As Peter Senge says in his book, The Fifth Discipline, “Vision translates mission into truly meaningful intended results – and guides the allocation of time, energy, and resources. In my experience, it is only through a compelling vision that a deep sense of purpose comes alive.”
A good 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.
Some examples of what I believe to be good vision statements are:
Bremen Moteren Werken (BMW): “To become the most successful premium manufacturer in the car industry”
Keller Williams Realty: “To be the real estate company of choice”
Feeding America: “A hunger-free America”
Alzheimer’s Association: “A world without Alzheimer’s”
Habitat for Humanity: “A world where everyone has a decent place to live”
While having an organizational mission and vision is important, it is not enough. As pointed out in the statement above by Burt Nanus, the vision has to be “widely shared.”
When I facilitate vision development processes, I ask the people charged with the development of the organizational vision statement, “What is the difference between a vision and a vision statement?”
After they have grappled with the question for a few minutes, I point out that a vision statement is what is on the walls of the office, in their organizational literature, and what they talk about in new employee orientation. A vision, on the other hand, is what they plant in the hearts of the employees.
A vision statement only becomes a vision when it drives their behavior when every decision is based on whether what they decide to do will help them fulfill the vision. The vision statement becomes a vision when it is like a magnet drawing people constantly closer to the fulfillment of the vision statement.
Turning the vision statement into a vision is not an easy task. The organization’s leadership team must model the vision in everything they do. They must find ways to constantly remind people of their end goal – the accomplishment of the vision.
A vision statement is not a vision until people in the organization buy into it.
This raises the question about how does one get people to buy into the organization’s vision.
Probably the most successful way to get people to buy into the vision is to ask for their help in creating it. The reaction of many of those reading this column is “but we already have a vision.” If the vision you have is relevant and currently working for the organization, then you may have to rely on other methods, but some organizations revisit their vision every few years and tweak it as a result of changes that have occurred in the organization.
MBA recently facilitated the vision and mission development for Dallas County Community Supervision and Corrections Department because the organization’s mission and vision had been created under a previous administration and Javed Syed, who has been director there approximately two years, decided to appoint a committee of approximately 35 employees to create both a new vision and new mission for the organization. The people on that committee worked hard to create a new mission and new vision. As a result, they feel it is theirs.
If you already have a vision statement that is a good one but has not yet really become a vision, ask employees for help in turning the statement into a vision.
Others ways to promote the vision of the organization is to make sure it is written down and posted where everyone can see it. Distribute it to every employee, post it on your website, put it on your correspondence, and make it the signature on your emails. You might create a brochure with the vision in it.
I teach a Sunday Bible study class at First Baptist Church of Conroe, Texas and I send an email to the members of the class each week with questions about what we are going to discuss that Sunday. The church has a new vision statement, so I put that statement at the bottom of every email I send to the class and the emails I exchange with church staff.
In order to turn a vision statement into a vision, you must constantly stress its importance.
Talk with your employees about the vision during new employee orientation, during formal staff meetings, during informal meetings, during performance appraisals, during disciplinary hearings, and during training sessions.
Reward employees who do things that contribute to the successful implementation of the vision. Talk about your vision when complimenting employees. Tell them how you appreciate what they did and how what they did contributes to moving the organization closer to its vision.
You can never over-communicate the vision.
To successfully implement the vision, the organization’s leadership must not only be ever vigilant in keeping it on the minds of the employees but they must model the vision themselves.
Vision driven organizations are successful organizations and the work it takes to successfully implement the vision is well worth the effort.
If you have questions regarding the development and or implementation of a vision or mission, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and these will be addressed in this column as we continue our focus on “Building or Reshaping Organizational Culture.”