Mission and Vision thoughts

Recently I was invited to join a new group on LinkedIn.  The purpose of the group was unclear to me and I inquired about its mission and what the creator was envisioning.  Much to my surprise there were several begrudging comments on how they try to stay away from mission and vision statements.  One was left feeling a little unclean for even mentioning those words.

So I set about writing some thoughts about Mission and Vision Statements.  As you will see I happen to be a big believer in the value they can bring.  All the paragraphs are directed at the formation of a new LinkedIn discussion group.

“I am a designer so as I thought about the question of how to set a foundation I found myself going back to what I do for a living which is designing organizations / businesses / agencies / departments / processes. I am a designer.

The first thing we do when working with a business entity (and this group can be considered an entity) is determine its Mission. Why does it exist? What is its purpose? I don’t care for generic platitudes that can be applied to most any organization. Capture the essence of why the group exists.

Next we look at Vision. It is my opinion that visions are the responsibility of the leader. I do not subscribe to group visions any more than I subscribe to using polls to lead a country. Leaders lead and that means taking the responsibility of sitting down and thinking through where you want to take this group. What is that end state? Given the nature of this entity perhaps the only way is to create a vision through an iterative process with each person taking his/her stab at writing something everyone can get behind.

Without mission and vision you have nothing as a back drop. Mission and Vision should be considered when making any decision in relation to this group. Without them any decision or direction is good enough and that does not seem right.

One thing I have come to understand is Mission and Vision, while description of current and future state are also high-level goals. The reason I mention that is in our design approach we typically move from mission and vision to strategic goals (for businesses they are often revenue and profit oriented). During this initial part of the engagement we are trying to define the external environment in which the entity exists (Threats, Opportunities, Trends, ….) and internal environment (Strengths, Weaknesses, Critical Success Factors,….). In going through this process we are establishing the context in which the entity exists and coming to understand the entity itself.

This exercise is different than what we have done in the past because when we are working with an entity it has been in existence for a number of years therefore it already has a design. One of our tasks is to document the existing design so that we can determine the relevance of the design based upon the mission, strategic goals, desired strategies, capabilities and environment. Our mission is to design an entity to reach its strategic goals within the environment in which it exists. Strategies exist solely to have an entity reach its goals.

Tying that back to this group: What is its mission? What is its vision? What are the products and services provided by this group? Who are the customers? Are there different customer segments or only one? Seems like the different categories we responded to may be different segments with different expectations. What is the Value Proposition for each product/service for each customer segment – what are they looking for and what is important to them? If you don’t meet their expectations then they will not stay.

Just one more thought and I will terminate this discussion. We have a dichotomy on our hands. While the group is an entity it is not an entity. In other words there isn’t an entity that is going to make a decision. It is a person or group of people. And while the group will take on certain characteristics based upon its membership it is not just one thing. As a nation we fall prey to this type of thinking. We hear about the evils of Wall Street as if Wall Street is an entity and we can go an scold it and hold it up for ridicule. Wall Street is comprised of a lot of hard working honest people trying to play by the rules and make a good living. The same is true of “the Government”. We speak about the government as an inept entity not capable of running any organization efficiently. Actually the government is made up of many very bright people with the interest of the nation in mind.

So our group is an entity and yet at the same time it isn’t. Let’s not fall prey to a certain type of limited thinking.”

  1. August 28, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Hi Stan,

    Your thoughts on vision and mission are very insightful. I too am a believer in the power of vision and the value of a mission statement. I would love to visit your blog again and learn from the other posts. I will consider it a honor if you view my blog post on the same theme.
    http://dilipnaidu.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/power-of-a-vision/

    Cheers,

    Dilip

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