Values, Vision, Mission (Part 1)

Values, Vision, Mission — How to Get Them Right
Part 1 of a Four-Part Tutorial

Finding Clarity and Focus

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If you do a web search on writing vision and mission statements, you will find far-ranging and often contradictory advice. What one person calls a vision statement, another calls a mission statement. Nor is there any consensus on how these statements should be structured.

So forgive me for adding another viewpoint to this confusion. In this tutorial I want to introduce you to the model that I use to integrate values, vision, and mission into a cogent whole. I'm not aware of any other model, on the internet or elsewhere, which completely replicates this one.

But before I turn to this model, let me say a word about why developing a statement of vision and mission is important, even for micro-business owners.

Vision Statements and Mission Statements

Vision statements give you clarity of direction and help you maintain focus

When properly constructed, vision and mission statements give you clarity of direction and help you maintain focus.

The very nature of small business startups is that the owner is pulled in a hundred different directions every day. After all, most small businesses start as a one-man or one-woman show. (About 55% of all small businesses have fewer than five employees. And the bulk of these businesses employ no one but the owner.)

Because of the incessant demands and distractions thrown at them, it's easy for small business owners to lose focus on the things that are most vital for their success. Clearly-articulated vision and mission statement are a simple, but constant reminder of what's truly important on your agenda.

Encore entrepreneurs, in particular, need this regular reminder. Because they are launching a startup later in life, they have less time than younger cohorts to build a successful company or to recover from wholesale mistakes. For encore entrepreneurs, time is of the essence. To manage time wisely, they need to stay on task as much as possible.

Clearly-articulated vision and mission statements are a simple, but constant reminder of what's truly important on your agenda.

As a small business adds employees, its vision and mission statements become even more critical. These statements are a concise way of helping employees understand the overarching priorities of the business. In a word, vision and mission statements give the same kind of focus to employees that these guiding statements give to ownership.

To achieve proper focus, it's not enough to announce your vision and mission statements or to allude to them on occasion. They must be emphasized so thoroughly and so frequently that they are absorbed into the bloodstream of the business.

Otherwise you can find yourself in a situation like one that I encountered with a client. The company had asked me to assess their leadership development needs by interviewing their executive team. Because the business employed several hundred craftsmen, working in several departments, about ten people made up the executive team.

I noticed that the company's vision and mission statements were displayed prominently in several hallways. So in my initial interview with each executive, I asked for a description of the company's vision. Not a single one offered me anything approximating the language of the published vision. And some of the responses were in fact rather foreign to the stated vision.

If leadership itself cannot articulate the company's vision and mission clearly and consistently, what concept of the company's priorities is being communicated to the workers?

It's of little value, therefore, to go through the exercises in this tutorial if you are going to relegate the resulting vision and mission statements to a file cabinet or stack of papers on a bookshelf. Either be serious about developing your statements of value, vision, and mission, or don't waste your time. Use that time more productively on something else.

With that said, let's turn next to an overview of our model.

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