Vision, mission and values give a company direction. They describe what a company stands for and what it doesn’t. Solid mission, vision, and values statements give guidelines for a brand’s behavior, help distinguish a company from its peers, and serve as a foundation for the brand’s ultimate personality. Without it, a company is rudderless.
When’s the right time? Some companies don’t launch before they have a mission, vision, and values. Others develop it when time allows. Though timing varies, the most important element in creating your mission/vision/values is executive alignment. It will be the hardest part of the process but if you miss it, you’ll end up with meaningless fluff. Start with alignment and the mission and vision wording almost takes care of itself.
Here are the steps to get you there:
1. Get your executive team on board
The most important part of this work is including your executive team from day one. Yes, another project that takes time away from your “real work”. We get it. Mission/vision work doesn’t feel as urgent as launching a new product on time or making this quarter’s sales goal. But the longer you delay, the longer you have to wait for the impact. And if executives don’t take ownership for the project, they won’t have respect for the work that comes out of it.
2. Put it all out in the open: one-on-one interviews
Once you’ve got your executives’ attention, gather feedback from each exec individually. When we work with clients on mission/vision projects, we start by interviewing the key internal players. (If you are doing this project on your own, someone on your team, preferably a neutral player, could handle this step.) Big picture, you want to know where they think the company should go in the future and how it will get there. You also want to gather opinions on the current business and service offerings, market and competition, trends and regulations affecting the market in the short and long term, and current and future target customers.
3. Tackle the big issues and hot topics: executive alignment
Coming out of the immersion and interview stage, you’ll have a list of statements that covers the kind of future different people in the organization desire for the company, how comfortable people are with change, and where people want to focus first.
In a recent engagement, these were a few of the statements we generated for our client:
- We need to be 100% aligned as a leadership team on Vision, Mission, and Values
- Our vision should be internally vs. externally focused
- We’re more comfortable as an enabler brand than an innovator
4. Expect Disagreement
If you are like most companies, people won’t always be in agreement. But rather than be frustrated by this, see it as your opportunity to find alignment.
Before you develop the mission and vision, you get an idea as to where execs stand on the issues and ideas that support that mission and vision. So, bring everyone together into one room. Remember, people own what they build. Put each statement on a poster with an “agree/disagree” scale and ask individuals to use a post-it to show how they relate to the statement. When everyone is done, it’s time to discuss.
Second, pull out from the interviews the “hot topics” or the issues that are holding the company back. If the team doesn’t address these issues, they’ll destroy the company.
Think about a disability insurer. Their hot topics could include things like the following:
Startups have already moved into term life and car insurance and erased the middleman. How will your company prevent this from happening to you?
You’re in the midst of digitizing the underwriting process at your company. How does this project and that one overlap?
5. Follow the Critical Path
Our approach is to get everything out in the open before you start building a vision and mission. It can be painful and frustrating to hash out these topics but it’s an essential step in the process. You learn where people sit on every important issue and you figure out the hurdles you need to jump over to get to the mission and vision development stage. Eventually, you’ll decide together where the company is headed.
Speaking of the critical path, don’t do marketing before you set your vision and mission. People get excited when they hear about a new strategy. They want to get started. We recently worked with a company that lacked a strong, energizing strategy. The marketing department recognized this more than any other part of the organization. He recognized that the company was moving in a new direction and was so eager to communicate a new mission and vision that he put something in place before the executive team reached alignment on the mission and vision.
When we talked to the executive team about the mission and vision work we planned to do for the company, though, many felt uncomfortable with the marketing work communicating the new strategy. Misalignment all around.
Alignment Drives Business
Put in the hard work to get everyone around the table aligned around how to move forward and energized around what the future holds. Focusing on alignment will pay off in the end. It will save you time, frustration, and energy, and allow you to better focus in on what really matters, what will drive your business and brand into the future, with everyone on board.
If you need help building alignment, please reach out.
Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.
Originally published at www.emotivebrand.com on July 5, 2018.