By Jeff Hanhausen
I’ve been to a lot of corporate meetings working to articulate a company’s mission and vision. Sometimes, it is great work and very actionable. Other times, it’s just a blur, and nobody in the organization can connect the mission and vision to their work. Even worse, customers don’t understand it.
If you asked employees about your company’s purpose, what would they say? What if you asked them where the company hoped to be in five years? Would answers be consistent across the organization?
If you’re not sure of the answer, it’s time to reexamine your vision statement. But before you get out the whiteboard and markers, take a moment to understand its purpose.
What mission and vision statements are for
The basis for a vision statement is not just the marketplace opportunities; it needs to be consistent with your corporate culture. At the end of the day, your vision is a motivation for the people who make up your organization and drive your culture.
In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Daniel H. Pink separates extrinsic and intrinsic rewards and motivation. In our marketplace, which is unlike any other in our history, business models and operations have changed. Organizations work to be flat with people that are self-motivated. Employees are looking for interesting work and autonomy that has purpose and meaning. A recent survey by McKinsey & Co. estimated that, in the U.S. only 30 percent of job growth now comes from algorithmic work, while 70 percent comes from heuristic work. A key reason: routine work can be outsourced or automated; artistic, emphatic, non-routine work generally cannot.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
In 1960, MIT management professor Douglas McGregor challenged the presumption that humans in the absence of external rewards and punishments would not do much. People have higher drives, he said, and these drives could benefit businesses if managers and business leaders respected them. In the same era, Frederick Herzberg, a psychologist turned management professor, proposed that two key factors determined how people fared on the job. The first factor was extrinsic rewards such as pay, working conditions and
job security. The absence of these things created dissatisfaction. The second was motivators — things like enjoyment of the work itself, genuine achievement and personal growth. These internal desires were what really boosted both satisfaction and performance and were where managers ought to focus their attention.
Extrinsic rewards and motivation produce short-term focus and thinking. This is not to say it is wrong or bad, but you need to notice it and manage those rewards around the appropriate outcomes. You also need to connect to long-term horizons, a place where people can locate themselves inside the story, be autonomous and design strategies for personal growth and purpose. A vision and mission will help them.
How to write mission and vision statements
In short, the purpose of your vision and mission statements is to help your stakeholders — employees, investors, vendors and clients — understand the big picture and see where they fit into it. Now, it’s time to reexamine yours and adjust it to achieve that goal.
State why you do what you do. What is your purpose at a higher level? What’s the bigger picture? Say this in a way that helps others connect their own existential purposes to the mission and vision. Keep it short — it should only be a few sentences at most — and keep what you sell out of it — that will come later.
State how you do it. This should be two to five distinct values about how your company operates that make you unique. These should be specific and actionable, and they should be written in a way in which people can be held accountable.
State what you do. This is the space to say what you sell.
Leave your strategic objectives out of it. They are the basis for a scorecard, but they are not the basis for motivation and mobilization.
As the CEO, you are responsible for the visionary element of enterprise design. If your vision and mission aren’t doing their job, you’re not doing yours. CEO
Jeff Hanhausen is CEO of The Hanhausen Group, which invests its expertise, network and money in a small number of private companies to produce a significant shift in the rate of growth of enterprise value. www.hanhausengroup.com. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .