Why You Need a Mission Statement?

There are at least two important reasons to create a company vision and mission. 7/12/2010 6:31 AM Eastern

Why You Need a Mission Statement?

Jul 12, 2010 10:31 AM, By Bradley A. Malone

Many audiovisual integration companies start small, with three to five people filling a multitude of roles and performing many tasks. These roles and responsibilities often overlapped, so the founding members understood one another’s jobs, and probably shared a common purpose. Something like, "Do whatever it takes to make the customer happy, and do really cool work while we’re at it." That was their purpose, their reason for existence. It didn’t have to be written down someplace. It was the truth that everyone knew and measured themselves against.

Fast-forward 5, 10, 15 years, and the company has grown to 50 (maybe even 100) people and three of the founding members have left. The two remaining members are the president and the VP of sales, and the two of them are wondering why the other people in the company don’t always (or hardly ever) act like they have common sense or place importance on the same things that they would. The challenge here is that the founding members didn’t make that "common sense" visible or communicate it, nor did they explain what the purpose of the company, the context, or the measurement criteria were. They just assumed that every new employee would automatically get it and act accordingly. The reality is that the new employees don’t act accordingly because they don’t know what "it" is or why they need to know. So why and how does an organization create and sustain a viable vision and/or mission?

There are at least two important reasons to create a company vision and mission. The first is that the organization often already has a vision and mission, but the problem is that it’s different for every employee. They’re all operating with great intentions, but not coalescing as a group united on the same principles, and there are cliques and frustrations between people and groups who don’t share the same viewpoints. The second reason is that a documented and communicated vision and mission gives employees a common foundation from which to make responsible choices and decisions. The criteria are established. People know the right choice—not the convenient one, the popular one, or the conflict-averse one, but the one that aligns with the image the company wants to create.

The how can be accomplished a number of ways (executive management team meeting, employee focus group, representatives from all of the departments, etc.), but the primary outcome should be something that each employee can be proud of. The goal is to have all of the employees answer the questions, "Why are we here?" and "What do we provide?" similarly.

A vision and mission is viable when it can be measured against the following criteria:

  • Can the organization credibly sell the vision and mission to its customers and regularly measure its performance against it?
  • Does the organization use the vision and mission as a filter through which all decisions are made?
  • Does it continuously reward behavior that aligns with the vision and mission and correct behavior that is not?
  • Does executive management really walk the talk, or are they hypocrites?
  • Does the vision and mission provide the capability to differentiate the company, and does the organization keep objective data to prove it is in alignment?
  • Does the vision and mission make people proud to work in the organization?

Many organizations spend a lot of time, money, and energy on building processes, buying software, and training their people on the newest technology, but a majority of them forget to consciously create a framework and foundation for a healthy organizational culture. Establishing a vision and mission is the first step. The only way to fail is not to start.

Bradley A. Malone, PMP, president of Twin Star Consulting, is a senior faculty member for InfoComm International and the Project Management Institute. He has consulted with numerous organizations globally on topics of organizational effectiveness and portfolio and project management, and he has provided instruction to more than 15,000 course participants and numerous corporate organizations.

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