Much attention is paid to the importance for any business, large or small, of having a vision and the mission statement that follows from it.
Many hours, and sometimes thousands and thousands of dollars, are spent in consultants, retreats and workshops to produce the right vision.
Why then, do some seem to have meaning, and others are words on the wall?
A picture is worth it
In essence, a vision is exactly that, a picture of what it is to be. As humans, we operate on images. Why do we watch movies? What does a good novel generate in your mind? An image of what is described.
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We don’t dream in text, we dream in images.
Therefore, if you have a mission statement that does not generate a clear and exciting image in the minds of every employee that they adhere to, it is a waste of words and will come to naught.
Well it will create dissatisfaction in all minds as they have no idea where they are headed.
The Lehman Brothers mission statement was as follows: “We are one company, defined by our unwavering commitment to our customers, our shareholders and to each other. Our mission is to build unparalleled and valuable partnerships for our clients, through the knowledge, creativity and dedication of our employees, leading to superior returns for our shareholders. “
Can anyone, in all fairness, say that this statement forms a clear picture in their mind that creates a level of excitement and prompts staff to act on it?
This led to Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, with Lehman holding over US $ 600 billion ($ 852 million) in assets. Clearly, the mission of building “unrivaled partnerships with our customers and added value for our customers” has been missed.
Volkswagen’s mission statement had two parts: “We take responsibility for the environment, safety and social issues” and “We act with integrity and build on reliability, quality and passion as the foundation of our work. “. This led to a good result. As a company that constantly cheats on emissions tests, you wonder how it “acts with integrity” and “takes responsibility for the environment”. Why then have a set of statements describing expected behaviors and pay no attention to these values at the highest levels?
Actions speak louder
If culture can be defined as the behaviors that occur when no one is watching, then changing those behaviors is key.
Is it done with words? Never.
This can only be done when the vision, the image (of what it should be) is stronger than the current reality (what it is now).
According to Robert Fritz, as soon as you have a different view of reality, you create structural tension. If the vision is strong, energy is generated and actions move towards the vision. If it is low, negative energy is generated, complaints increase, and productivity decreases.
Producing a clear vision and creating an image of what it might be, then aligning the behaviors that need to change, has real power.
As Simon Sinek says, “Customers will never love a business until employees love it first. “ You cannot love a business if the vision is not the same as the reality, or if the vision is too weak to implement a change.
Compare the examples of poor implementation at IKEA – its vision is to ‘create a better everyday life for many people’. Or, TED, to “spread ideas”.
I don’t advocate short, catchy mission statements, but both conjure up an image. I see myself working for Ikea and telling people my job is to make a better life, or at TED telling people who ask me that every day I help spread ideas around the world.
Many people know the story of the NASA janitor and JFK. It’s summed up like this. President John F Kennedy first visited NASA Headquarters in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was cleaning the floor and asked him what he was doing at NASA. The janitor replied, “I’m helping send a man to the moon. The janitor got it. He understood the vision, his part in it, and he had a purpose. He behaved accordingly.
So, is your vision a waste of time?
If that doesn’t inspire a picture of where you want to be, if your staff behave differently and translate into action, then it is.
Be real. The management is simple. It requires that you have a vision and inspire your team to work on it.
You can’t do this if you have some bland words on the wall that no one is paying attention to.
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