Mission and Vision – The Two Drivers of Corporate Culture
Regular readers of my blog will know how much emphasis I place on shifting corporate culture in the pursuit of making real and lasting organisational change. This is because the way that people think and the things they consider important absolutely dictate the way they react. Consider how two different people might react in the same situation:
There has been a terrible road accident, and in one car a young boy lies bleeding profusely. The paramedics have arrived on the scene, and assess that the boy needs an immediate blood transfusion or he may lose his life. The mother wants the blood to be given immediately; the father, a Jehovah’s Witness, heatedly disagrees.
Beliefs and values dictate our reaction to different situations. When considering organisational change, these same rules apply. In order to make effective change, the corporate culture must first be aligned with the beliefs and values of organisation and then accept the vision of the organisation. This basic tenet also applies to customers, suppliers, shareholders and all other stakeholders, as well as executives and employees.
In this first of a four-part series of articles, I’m going to look at the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of mission and vision statements.
Be loud and proud about your organisation’s values
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, once said that, “The value of your company is driven by your company’s values.”
If no one knows what your company’s values are, how can it attract, retain, and profit from those values?
This is where mission and vision statements come into their own. When written correctly, they can focus minds and provide impetus for both the present and the future. Mission statements and vision statements can give your workforce a real boost. If your organisation is looking to change, a mission statement can reinvigorate your employees and provide guiding principles for them to work within.
A great mission statement will:
- Provide a framework to evaluate market opportunities
- Focus on core business activities, models, and strategy
- Define brand and business for all
- Engage employees and empower them to give ideas for business and process enhancement
Declare your purpose with a mission statement
Your mission statement is about the here and now, but that really doesn’t change over time. It tells everyone your values and beliefs, what is important to your organisation, and also lets staff, customers and potential customers align with those values and beliefs. This is important in the sales process: customers tend to buy from companies they trust and admire. In 2011, Primark’s profits fell for the first time in ten years as the revelations about its employment practices – men, women, and children at slave labour wages in the Far East and sub-continent – plagued the company.
Your mission statements should also declare what markets you serve, and how you do that.
Declare your intent with a vision statement
Your vision statement communicates your goals and ambitions to all. It is a statement of intent, from which employees should be able to draw encouragement. It can also help your people to understand your business strategy going forward.
It should be aspirational, and is likely to change over time (one reason why mission statements are more common) as market circumstances, technology, competition and regulations evolve. So, mission statements should be reviewed regularly, perhaps every three to five years.
Does your organisation benefit from a mission or vision statement?
It’s been said to me that, “everyone knows what we do and what we stand for.” But is that true? When was the last time you asked your employees to tell you what the company does and why? Have you assessed the impact of this knowledge (or lack of) at the level of corporate culture?
A written statement declaring your current and future states provides a whole range of benefits before, during, and after organisational change, including:
- Setting priorities
- Building unity
- Guiding strategic planning
- Defining expectations of performance
- Establishing a goal-oriented corporate culture
- Communicating organisational purpose to employees, suppliers, and customers
Despite these clear benefits, a Gallup study in 2013 found that less than half of all employees knew what their company’s mission was. That is a real disturbing lack of brand awareness. Values and beliefs, explained within the mission statement, help to align people towards a common goal.
During organisational change, if the mission is clear, employee engagement increases. Your mission and vision statements will help your people understand how your strategy and plans fit into their own beliefs and values, shaped by a new corporate culture. With a clear mission statement, the value of change is clear. If your mission and vision statements are written well and then used properly, your corporate culture will welcome change and not resist it.
Having established the need for your organisation to have both mission and vision statements and how they both benefit the organisation, its employees, suppliers, customers, and, of course, by default its shareholders, next time we’ll take a look at some examples of both good and bad mission and vision statements. In the third and fourth parts of this series, we’ll look at how to create mission and vision statements, and then finally how to use them.
Part One: Mission and Vision – The Two Drivers of Corporate Culture