Seven Process Traps: Creating mission and vision statements
They’re a compass. They’re a rallying cry. They’re a roadmap. Pick your own metaphor: vision and mission statements provide organizations with inspiration for everything they do.
Importantly, the way an organization creates vision and mission statements will impact their success. Smart organizations don’t just whip them together out of buzzwords and air; they avoid these seven traps that many companies, nonprofits, and government agencies often fall into while creating vision statements and mission statements:
1. They forgot to ask why.
Everyone knows why you need a vision and mission statement, right? Well…not exactly. Many people don’t even consider it. Worse, some don’t prioritize them or outright don’t bother. Hey, they might be right, but it’s vital that every team member is on the same page about this. If they’re not on board, you’ll hear whining, dragging of heels, and potential sabotage throughout the process. There’s always the possibility that it’s not your organization’s most pressing need, but once you have full team support for the value of this exercise, you’ll find powerful results.
2. Wait, which is which?
Many people are unfamiliar with the distinction between a vision statement and a mission statement, and the confusion can cause problems. Without clear definitions, you’re apt to write in circles, jargon, or clichés. Define your terms upfront, including Purpose, Values, Strategies, Core Competencies, Goals, and BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), then choose the scope of your work strategically.
3. Top-down approach.
Whether your company has a cult of personality, a big-ego executive or a well-meaning time-saver, a single leader penning your guiding philosophy will come up short. Without staff and stakeholder input, you would miss out on a diversity of voices at best. In most circumstances you’d waste precious time. At worst, you would alienate your staff. Assume that every team member has meaningful input – you did hire them to contribute, right? Recognize that your mission will be most successful when the whole team is behind it.
4. Make it up on the spot.
Don’t wing it. Do your homework. Done right, your vision and mission statements reflect your company’s conceivable future. Understand your organization’s financial reality and prospects, see what competitors and similar organizations are doing, understand customer and societal needs, and honestly evaluate what your organization is currently doing. Turn your stakeholders into your research machine, thereby engaging them and building buy-in throughout the process.
5. Lead it yourself.
Many leaders forget about their own power and decide to facilitate the mission / vision process. Employees are usually hesitant to speak completely freely if their job security is on the line, especially in a group setting where politics bring out the worst in people. Find someone diplomatic within your organization who can speak plainly to the CEO. Alternately, hire an outside facilitator who will help the executives participate in the background while empowering staff and board members to engage in a safer space.
6. *Umclar Fabilizimzim.
You don’t want a facilitator who speaks with a mouthful of peanut-butter, literally or metaphorically. *Unclear facilitation, which lacks a transparent process and timeline, will hinder progress and foster distrust. Ensure the group understands why they’re creating vision and mission statements, the differences between the two, and how they’ll be implemented.
7. Outsource thinking.
Surrounding yourself with experts is a sign of leadership, but abdicating responsibility and involvement leads to failed follow-through. Have enough at stake for yourself, your board and your staff to ensure that every member of your team will be proud and motivated to follow through on the final product.