Monday, May 7, 2012
You have a mission statement. Now what?
Having a mission statement does not necessarily have anything to do with what the organization actually does. Although a mission statement may be the result of management blood, sweat and tears, it means nothing until the folks in the organization start living by it. How do you get from here to there?
Your crew needs to know that the mission is. It must be short enough to be memorable and it has to be repeated frequently. It would be nice if we learned things by being told once, but we don't. You know your times tables because of repetition, you know about McDonalds because of repetition and you'll need repetition for your crew to know what your mission statement is.
Exposure can get your crew familiar with your mission. That doesn't mean they understand it. Understanding comes from using the idea. Edclick makes web-based data products for continuous improvement in education. That's our mission statement. Does the crew get it just because I say it? They get it better when we pay attention to the idea, when we work with it. When we challenge it and it has to defend itself. For example, when we discuss a possible new product idea, we have a perpetual question: how will this lead to continuous improvement in education?
Asking questions and discussing the answers gets us closer to understanding what the mission statement means. But we still aren't there.
Beyond understanding the mission, you want your crew to believe in it. You cannot create belief by decree or intimidation. It's going to take some convincing and may take some compromise. Convince your crew that you believe in the mission by making it a central feature in what you do. Have it be front-and-center and a touchpoint that you frequently return to to resolve questions of priorities and values.
Show that you're serious about your mission by making it central to discussions with the crew about how their value to the organization correlates to their contribution to the mission. Your mission should have real consequences on your organization's activities. Similarly, it should have real consequences to your crew.
Your organization is obviously at an advantage if everyone in it enthusiastically embraces the mission. How is that going to happen? First, by having a meaningful mission that all hands find worthwhile. Second, by making progress toward the serving the mission. That means not only doing the work but measuring your progress against the elements of your mission. Enthusiasm comes from making progress toward a worthy goal.
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continuous improvement, mission