Every entrepreneur who has ever launched a new company has been on a mission to fulfill a vision. The mission and vision might be to sell the most brilliant widget and make the world a better place, or to provide a new service that millions of people will find they can’t live without.
Once that great new thing catches on, each team member who joins the growing organization needs to learn about and embrace its mission and vision, as well as its values. Without universal acceptance of a common cause, people end up working at cross purposes, and misunderstandings ultimately run day-to-day operations into the weeds.
What’s a mission statement?
A mission is the organization’s current overriding purpose. It should include what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it. Think of it as the basic blueprint for your existence, and it’s best to keep it short and pithy:
“Our mission is to deliver innovative and cost-effective widgets, maintaining high standards for reliability and safety so that consumers may recognize us as the industry leader.”
What’s a vision statement?
A vision statement is more far-reaching than the mission. It projects what will happen in the future when you successfully fulfill your mission. Its intent is to give team members something to strive for, and assure investors and other stakeholders that you are forward-looking and have a plan for the direction you want the business to take. The vision statement should also be brief, but meaty:
“Our vision is to maintain the leading edge in widget production through research and development, introducing new applications that increase worldwide demand for widgets.”
Consider your mission and vision statements as snapshots of where the business is, and where it’s going.
With a mission and vision, do we really need values, too?
When it comes to long-term success, values may be the most important component of all. They’re the principles that continually guide how each member of your organization handles every job task and personal interaction. That’s why many businesses call them “core values.”
Some examples of values are honesty, teamwork and integrity. If customer service is a major aspect of your business, you might want to include courtesy as a value.
Once you start brainstorming what values are important, you can probably list dozens that you would like all your team members to have, but it’s best to keep it simple. Rank them in order of relevance to your long-term goals, then adopt the top four or five that will best guide your team in carrying out the organization’s mission while working toward its vision.
OK, we’ve got a mission, vision and values. Now what?
Once you fit these three puzzle pieces together, they reveal your organization’s distinct identity. Now it’s vital to keep them front and center at all times. For example, you may post your mission, vision and values prominently on your website to let your market know what you’re all about.
Publish stories about how to turn values into actions in the corporate newsletter or on Facebook. Publicly recognize and reward employees who go the extra mile to demonstrate your values. They might accomplish this through stellar productivity, superior problem-solving skills, or adeptness at keeping customers satisfied and coming back. Let your leaders showcase your values to become role models who motivate others to follow suit. Your values should be instilled and practiced every day, at every level of the organization.
Are we done yet?
Not quite. Because successful organizations and their cultures continually evolve as needs change in their market, you need to regularly revisit your mission, vision and values. Remember, they’re not carved in stone. Tweak as needed. Your team won’t see it as flip-flopping, but as a positive sign of growth.
Be proactive about sharing with team members when expectations change. From the top down, everyone needs to adapt behaviors so they can continue to work toward common goals. Many great companies that were once household names are now only memories because they failed to recognize or adapt their business practices to accommodate new technologies or consumer needs.
If you find nailing down your mission, vision and values too difficult a project, don’t feel as if you must go it alone. Having some degree of tunnel vision about what you do is fairly common. The daily details of managing a growing enterprise tend to take precedence over the big picture. Choosing to work with experienced, objective professionals who have expertise in helping to incorporate your mission, vision and values into your company’s overall branding strategy may be the best investment you’ll ever make.