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Vision, Mission and Values

Too often the power of these three tools of management— a clearly defined Vision- an instructive statement of Mission- and an unambiguous set of Values or Guiding Principles— are overlooked or discounted by those seeking to be effective managers.

Jack Olcott   |   1st November 2013
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Powerful tools for every level of management

Too often the power of these three tools of management— a clearly defined Vision- an instructive statement of Mission- and an unambiguous set of Values or Guiding Principles— are overlooked or discounted by those seeking to be effective managers.

• Do you know where your company or department is headed?
• Do you see- and share your leader’s Vision of goals to be achieved?
• Do you articulate your Vision in a compelling manner to those you are tasked to lead?
• Can you easily recite your company’s Mission statement?
• If so- do you understand what it means and how its message shapes your daily actions?
• Do you integrate the statement of Mission into your daily conversations and directions to staff (if not- you should)?
• Are there questions regarding what actions or Values are acceptable in the pursuit of Vision and Mission?

A Mission statement should be a clear- quickly grasped- easily recalled signpost pointing to the goal the group is attempting to reach. Anyone who sees that signpost should know where they are and where they are headed. Mission statements that are long- convoluted epistles are useless. A lengthy description that fails to be focused and concise often results in ambiguity. Furthermore- no one remembers what such a Mission statement is intended to convey. If the message is confusing or can’t be recalled- it is ineffective in shaping behavior.

Peter F. Drucker was the recognized authority in management and marketing theory throughout most of his seven decade career as a teacher- author and management consultant. Active as an educator at Claremont Graduate University- California- until age 92 and continuing as a consultant to industry for several years thereafter prior to his death in 2005- Professor Drucker provided great insight to all who aspire to management. His writings are numerous; his words on the importance of Vision- Mission and Values are well worth reading and implementing.

In his book- Managing the Non-Profit Organization- Drucker stated “the first job of the leader is to think through and define the mission of the institution”. Mission is paramount for effective leadership- he reasoned- for without a purposeful Mission resulting from a constructive Vision and implemented by adherence to core Values- a charismatic personality can lead a nation- company or department astray. On a global scale- he referenced Hitler- Stalin and Chairman Mao- three dynamic leaders with misguided Missions who inflected immense suffering on the world. Recent examples of questionable and self-serving Missions can be found in the history of the nation’s Great Recession.

Drucker said that a statement of Mission must not be “a kind of hero sandwich of good intensions”. Furthermore it should properly identify the purpose of the group under consideration. For example- he noted that many hospitals defined their Mission as health care- when in fact hospitals do not take care of those who are healthy—they care for those who are sick.

In Drucker’s opinion- “Our Mission is health care” does nothing to identify the appropriate actions or behaviors of hospital employees. He further illustrates the wisdom of the pithy- instructive Mission statement with several examples- such as the words of the famous 19th Century British educator- Arnold of Rugby- who defined the Mission of the English Public School system as “Making gentlemen out of savages”.

Meaningful Message
A Mission statement must be directive. For example- what does a hypothetical Mission statement “Make money and have fun” say? Is it sufficiently directive to lead employees in the right direction so they make constructive decisions regarding the company’s goods and services? Does that division’s statement of Mission align with the Mission and goals of the overall corporation?

The Mission statement must be operational- not simply a recitation of platitudes. It should focus on what the group is trying to accomplish- resonate with the corporation’s Vision- Mission and Values- and do so with sufficient rhetoric and style to instil within each employee an awareness of his or her contribution to the overall goals of the organization.

Furthermore- employees should be participants in its creation. A statement that comes down from on-high- imposed by the department head or company hierarchy- is easily ignored and forgotten. Rather- it is the leader’s responsibility to articulate his or the company’s Vision such that the group grasps what the leader sees- embraces the wisdom of that Vision and captures its essence in their Mission statement.

When the group participates in creating its Mission statement- the true benefits of this management tool as a compass and motivator will be realized. Mission- like Vision and Values- must be sufficiently discussed- dissected and developed by the group so that all who are guided by these management tools feel a personal commitment to their implementation. The mark of a true leader is someone who shapes the process constructively for the benefits of the organization.

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