I just returned from a strategy workshop in New York City with the iconic Dr. Alan Weiss. During the course of two-days with some of the top consultants in the world, we dug deep into best practices for developing strategies for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
An item that struck me during this time was how often organizations lose sight of their mission – even if it’s framed on the wall outside the boardroom.
The problem is, for many businesses (and non-profits, too) the mission is represented by a bland mission statement that was crafted by a committee and beaten into submission until no dissension remained about the perfect wording and where all the commas and capitals should be.
Likely, this perfect specimen was quickly disseminated to employees though all hands meetings and plodding PowerPoint presentations. After the ink dried, it was never considered again.
That’s just wrong.
There are plenty of consultants who will charge thousands of dollars to help organizations with the process I just described. When it’s all said and done, the company is no better off than they were when they began, because the concept of mission was misunderstood from the start.
You see, your MISSION is why you’re here. It’s the reason your company exists. It’s not a lofty statement about changing the world or empowering everyone in a let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya kind of way. Of course, your mission may be “to change lives through better medical care” or “to create empowered teams with transformational training,” and that’s totally OK. Just be sure you don’t get so lost in the phrasing that you forget what that means.
Your real Mission, together with the core Values and future Vision of your leadership comprise a framework from which you can forge a strategy that propels your business forward. Understanding your true mission enables you to benchmark key decisions and avoid the perils of getting off course.
When considering any new direction or opportunity, your leadership should be able to quickly determine if it is mission positive or mission negative: Does taking the path in question advance your mission or pull you away?
If you look at your mission as the center of gravity for your business, you can easily rate alternatives in terms of their impact on organizational balance. As a result, your mission becomes central to decision making. Instead of hanging on the wall unnoticed it lives in the minds of employees at all levels, guiding actions and interactions with peers, customers, vendors and investors.
An active, living mission is simple. It elegantly answers the question, “What’s the point?” of your organization. This can provide some fodder for debate among leadership, especially if you’ve been in business for a while and have lost sight of the reason the founders started it. Through acquisitions and expansion, mission can get a bit cloudy.
Revisiting your mission may highlight some strategic areas that need to be reassessed. Have you taken on initiatives, products, partners or even divisions that don’t align with the mission of your organization? If that’s the case, these issues should be addressed. Doing so not only supports your strategic focus, it will shore up your brand and purpose in the minds of your stakeholders, providing bottom line benefits.
Keep a sharp focus on your real mission to clarify strategy and ensure successful execution at all levels of your organization.