Saturday 16 July 2011

Why Should a Company have a mission, visions and values? Why is there still a question about this?

Twice in the last week I have either seen or heard someone ask the question, why should a company have a mission, vision and values? I am a little concerned that there is still a question mark around this.

On Q&A it is still a question people are posing and people are coming back with very intelliegent answers ... check them out at

In my view there is still a question mark around this subject because most companies just create them [badly], tick the box and then put them somewhere in a draw and forget about them. When questioned, most employees can't remember their company's own mission. Indeed in this situation it is very questionable why you should need them, because they are not used and therefore a waste of time and effort. So if you don't want to take them seriously don't do it.

However, if mission, vision and values are crafted well in a collaborative and inclusive way, used, promoted and evolve over time, they are very useful in providing direction and focus, encouraging innovation within boundaries, motivating employees and creating a source of sustainable competitive advantage and therefore worth investing time in.

The way I look at these is as follows:

1. Mission = Purpose, why you are doing what you are doing, why you exist, your story, providing a sense of purpose. Employees are particularly motivated by the duty and purpose of the company they work for, ie. what is that company's legacy, what will be written on its head stone. If written broadly enough but within boundaries, it gives room for enough innovation. Take Google's mission - "to organize the worlds information to make it universally accessable and usable". It defines what business they are in and what business they want to be in. It is short, motivational, easy to remember, broad but provides boundaries, there is an element of economic profitability and social responsibilty to this mission. Missions should be promoted externally to clients and stakeholders. Try to answer this "Our company is on a mission to ..." Is is most certain better to know who you are than where you are going. You can't fulfil a purpose, it is a guiding star, there to inspire.

2. Values = principles, how you do what you do. What is the set of ethical and moral tones to guide operations. These should not just be dreamt up but based on the DNA that already exists in the organisation, it is linked to the inherent culture of the organisation. These are difficult to change as it is like DNA. So with values you need to ensure the rhetoric matches reality. i.e if the organisation's DNA is competitive, values like "results-oriented" are more appropriate than "collaborative". Some of these values should also be the distinctive core competencies of the organisation, i.e how they are distinct from the competition. A value such as "client 1st" is okay as the tone of the organisation, but not a distinct core competency as this value is used industry wide.

3. Vision = Aim, where do you want to be, where do you envisage your company in the foreseeable future, ie. 5-10 years [longer term not short term]. Some call this strategic intent. The outcome you are striving for, should be the best possible outcome, it could be really be stretch, or as some say a BHAG [big hairy audacious goal] so go on dare to dream. A powerful vision statement should stretch expectations and aspirations helping you step out of your comfort zone. It is complementary to the mission, not repetition of it. It provides the framework for all strategic objectives, resource allocation and plans. A vision is often written on a corporate and also business unit level. Vision is for you and your stakeholders, not for sharing externally, unlike the mission. Try and answer this "In 5 years we envisage our comapany ..."

The first 2 mission and values are your CORE as a company, they are timeless and enduring, perhaps in place for years. The 3rd vision is all about CHANGE, this is where progress is made, perhaps being changed every couple of years to make sure you are keeping up with the external environment.

What follows is market definition and positioning - this I will address in another blog post. A slogan/tag line is not the same thing as a mission and vision - this I will also address in another blog post.

You may ask, "What does this have to do with measurable marketing?". Remember "measurable" is defined as both "capable of being measured", "with care" "evaluation or a basis of comparison", but also "of distinguished importance, significance and value". Measuring is particularly important with "vision", not as a stick, but as a guide. Without a start point, end point and map, how do you know where you are, where you want to be and how far you are off from your end point and also when you have arrived? A business without a well crafted and used mission, vision and values may get by quite nicely, but they may take the long, scenic route to get there and competitors may have already arrived and started off on the next step of the journey and left you in their dust.

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