Tom Peters gave me a momentum shove (“In Search of Excellence”). But, the enlightenment occurred when I found myself in the delivery room for the birth of a mission statement and shared values for a company I had just joined, and which would become the richest work experience of my life. The existence of mission and values – well understood, thoroughly integrated and referenced for decision making -were central to the company’s significant successes.
I used the keys to our company’s success as consultative offerings to business partners. I insisted all preliminary engagements with clients would involve either development of absent mission and values statements, or reviews of their effectiveness where they were already present. Nearly all of my work engaged the first condition. Over twenty years, I’ve helped nearly a hundred companies create and integrate mission and shared values.
The success of these efforts was mixed. Some companies embraced the process with passion. Others did not. Some who were serious about centering their businesses around vision, mission and values (collectively “shared vision” -see below), continued to struggle. Others reported significant improvement in key business performance areas:
- Employee acquisition and retention
- Improved decision making
- Stronger customer/client satisfaction
- Effective team member contribution to business functions and tactics
Importantly, leaders of these companies sometimes reported that, once vision, mission and values were integrated, those leaders found themselves practicing more mature leadership. They could speak and hear more clearly, respond more rationally (and less reactively) and “be present” in calm ways which influenced the maturity of others. Group critical thinking improved.
It became easier for leaders to separate the more emotionally mature from others less so. This dramatically changed forms of performance management and how turnover was managed.
[One of our grandsons spent part of his summer with us. He got a job at a local food market. He learned the locally owned business had a customer-focused mission statement and, likely as a result of a fairly good orientation process, he could instantly recall and recite it. At work, he discovered pleasantly interacting with customers was rewarded by his supervisors and made his own work more satisfying.]
I estimate more companies pay some attention to vision, mission and values. I also believe most still do not.
The graphic below is a model first developed (although in a different form) and published in “In Search of Excellence.”
“Look left” first…always.