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10.24.2019 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Does Your Strategy for 2020 Include What’s Really Important?

This is the time of year where most business owners start to think about what will be more, better, and different next year.

If you’re mapping out your strategy for 2020 and that strategy doesn’t already include a clear Mission, Vision, and Values component, you’re missing the boat. These three components of your strategy actually define the culture of your business. If you don’t define the culture, the culture will haphazardly define you.

It’s not just the statements that are important. It’s the entire process of developing those statements that brings the team to an entirely different level of clarity. Clarity produces motivation and a higher return on your investment.

Let me also add that experience has taught me that it’s nearly impossible for any team to facilitate that process for themselves for the simple reason that they’re too close to their daily roles and activities within the company to effectively do so.

An outside facilitator is required because he/she can see and hear what the team is saying, and more importantly, not saying. It’s the facilitator’s job to create space for the richness of their ideas to emerge so that, together, they can craft meaningful Mission, Vision, and Values statements that will serve as the underlying foundation for the company.

This foundation dramatically impacts all future decisions to include recruiting and hiring practices, financial decisions, the types of customers/clients you want to attract, when termination is valid, operational decisions, and all systems, processes, and policies that need to be implemented.

Without this level of clarity, I find leaders often stumble through the day-to-day business with one or more metrics that may or may not give them the highest capacity for decision-making. In short, the business operates like a game of roulette. Some days you win; some days you lose.

The Bones of Mission, Vision, and Values.

You must have a defined process for how you will engage your team in developing clear statements of who you are as a company and what you stand for. That process is typically set forth by the facilitator you select, but before you engage someone for this purpose, here’s a few things you might want to consider as there are many different approaches.

Mission and Vision are often confused, and in fact, many companies decide to use one in place of the other. The beauty of defining your own is that you can decide how and what is most relevant to your business.

I distinguish one from the other in that I see Mission as what the business does or why the business exists. Vision, on the other hand, is more about who we are or how we want to be known as a company in the future.

I find it often helps my clients distinguish between the two if I offer up a prompt on Vision that asks the question, how would our community, our industry, or the world be different if our company lives out our Mission?

The Mission Statement.

According to Ebener & Smith, (2015), a Mission Statement has basically three components: (1) the business of the company, what it does, the products and services it provides. This element should be concrete, specific, and easy to identify; (2) purpose which is what brings substance to what the business does. It’s the why behind what we do as a business; (3) values (which I prefer flushing out into separate statements so as to keep the Mission Statement concise.)

Purpose should appeal to those outside the company as well and provide meaning to the people within it. It suggests that the day-to-day work contributes to something greater beyond the walls of the business itself.

For example, I once facilitated an engineering team from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. When we began the process, they were insistent that they didn’t do anything important at the museum. As we engaged further, it became increasingly clear that their ability to calibrate and maintain an exact temperature unique to each specific gallery was vital not only to the art work itself but also to the sustainability of the museum overall.

You can imagine the joy of these engineers in having their work validated as we crafted out their Mission and Vision statements for their own department!

In short, your Mission Statement should be memorable, clear, concise, simple, memorizable and focused on the present.

The Vision Statement.

Another way to think about the Vision statement beyond what I stated above is to imagine the business getting some kind of award in the future. What would it be for? Again, how would it have impacted the larger community, industry, or world?

Whatever you land upon, this statement also needs to be clear, short, memorizable—something that can actually be accomplished, but something that also challenges the imagination. Sometimes the Vision Statement is for internal purposes only, a way to motivate employees. Other times, it’s used for external purposes to let the outside world know where you’re heading.

Core Values.

Skip these and you’ll not only miss the boat. You’ll sink it!

I typically save these for last because I have a process that helps the team land on them fairly quickly. Core Values are the soul of Mission and Vision. I typically recommend no more than six Core Values, and I always insist that the team come up with one key sentence describing what they mean by each value. I do this because one person’s idea of a value such as integrity is often very different from someone else’s. Again, the point is to engage in a process of meaningful discussion, even debate, that allows the team to flush out what really matters to them.

As the soul of the process, the Core Values build upon the Mission and Vision and are vital to all decision-making processes. However, if they are not “inoculated” into the work force, they are useless. They must be rolled out and implemented across the organization, and there are a variety of ways this can be accomplished.

Core Values serve to guide the team on how they execute on a daily basis. They also serve as a reminder of when to celebrate successes. Finally, they are instrumental in drawing top talent and in helping weed out those who may no longer be a fit—all without emotional drama.

Bottom line.

The Mission Statement represents what you do and why you exist. The Vision Statement represents how things will be different if you live out your Mission, and the Core Values represent what you believe in and stand for.

The combination of these three powerful statements and the process behind them will dramatically change the way you run your business and how you live your Strategic Plan.

Failure to go into 2020 without these three components might lead to the demise of your business. Having them in place will help you weather any storm.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. October 24, 2019