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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Purpose, Vision, Mission, Values? Not Just For Strategy But For Life!

The classic flow chart for building a strategy goes from an initial definition of the purpose of the business, through the vision, the mission to what I consider the most important factor, the values.

Let's be quite clear.  These factors that are narrative, not numerical, are a definition of the business. They are the way we do things around here and are not just a route to the strategy.  We must live them every day.

None of these factors in whatever order you decide tom define them, is numerical and they all demand a high level of constructive thought. 

Sometimes they are in the province of the leader and sometimes are better determined by the top team.

The definition if the purpose of the business is perhaps best enunciated by the leader and frequently in the case of an SME, by the founder/owner.

He/she would know best why the business was originally set up with precisely what purpose.

Typical reasons, which can be extremely personal in some cases can cover such factors as:

·  Building a business to exploit an innovative idea.
·  Allowing the founder to develop a career without being in thrall to an employer.
·  To develop an income stream for shareholders

None of these are necessarily repeatable in every business but they give an indication of typical definitions. Whatever is decided, it is important to ensure that it is well known throughout the business.

I like the expression of the vision to be the dream of the founder and, in a way, consistent with the purpose it is a healthy sign of inclusivity if the definition is developed by the top team.

Vision means actually visualising what the business will look like in, say, five years time. For instance, what size will it be, will it still be in the same premises, what will the product line look like, what sort of people and technology will be needed and so on.

Again whatever is decided it must be expressed in a simple short sentence without cliché or platitude and understandable by everyone.

There is always a danger of reinventing the camel if the definition of the vision is developed by a committee so the casting vote of the leader must be the final arbiter.

Mission statements are a mixed blessing. Again they need to be stated simply and cogently and, please, without any mention of 'honesty', 'integrity' and 'committed' and other obvious clichés. Would you deal with anyone from whom those features are missing?

Make sure that you don't construct a Mission Statement that is just cut and paste. I often feel when I see a nicely framed mission statement in the reception area that it could easily be replaced by a similar one from another company without either noticing it.

And so to values. Please do not Google it and derive a shopping list from which you can choose some that look right. That is seemingly what Enron did and look what happened to them.

Just talk them through with the team based on the question:

What are those things that we do here that we are proud of, that are different, that everyone likes and values?

Values should be based on the good things we do for our customers, our people and our community. For example:

·  What is our attitude to Corporate Social Responsibility? 
·  What encouragement do we offer to our people in terms of their continuous learning? 
·  Do we really consider our customers to be the most important people in the business?

While all of this is the precursor to a strategic study, they must be lived day-to-day by everyone in the business. This implies that everyone should know what they are and what they mean to our success.

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