The New Year is just around the corner, which means most are taking a little time to reflect. It’s a time filled with renewed energy and drive for change, with many making resolutions and planning strategies for an even more successful 2018. That’s certainly true for me too, both personally and professionally. While creating mission statements are traditionally a Lean/Hoshin tool, it also fits well for those who perpetually set New Years Resolutions that don’t result in change.
I know the older I get, the quicker years seem to fly by. So where do you start? How do you pack everything you want to achieve into a mere 365 days either for you, or your team, or both? And what changes do you need to make today to achieve an overall goal, anyway?
Introducing your new favorite tool: Mission Statements.
WHAT IS A MISSION STATEMENT?
Dictionary.com describes it as “… a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.” It’s the WHY of any entities existence. Pithy, running at less than 20 words, and forms the ideal elevator pitch as to the importance of somethings existence. Beyond that… what it is depends on how you use it. It can just be a set of words scrawled on a piece of paper that gets referred to in moments of reflection. Or it could be something that speaks to you so deeply that every action you take resonates with your mission statement. It can be something to keep you honest in your problem solving efforts, inform you daily dietary decisions, keep your finances in order, or set direction for a team.
… SO THIS IS ABOUT CREATING GOALS THEN?
Not really. It’s common to confuse the two – but goals, measures and metrics should be the ‘small wins’ that push you – or your organization – closer to the philosophical ideology of your overall mission. To use a local example, the Denver Broncos Alumni Association cites its mission as:
“… uphold[ing] the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, and honor. We commit to enhance our communities through active service and devotion. We pledge to support the Denver Broncos Football Club in its community outreach programs and present ourselves as positive role models and mentors.”
The goals that underpin this are likely to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound – and detail WHAT is going to be achieved. If I were helping them structure more localized measures, I’d perhaps recommend they build goals around:
- Number of community outreach programs supported;
- Number of positive referrals made to their mentorship program or
- How honorable their members are perceived as being by the citizens of Colorado.
Each goal created under this category helps them positively achieve their mission statement.
WHERE DO VALUES FIT IN?
Values detail HOW you’ll be conducting business. Your values set is vital; performing brilliantly, achieving your goals and striving for your mission isn’t great if your also performing unethically. They discuss softer skills and attributes of an individual that will further help the goal, and drive closer towards that ever important mission statement. These are often wrapped up into a mission statement.
SO IT ALL HANGS OFF THE MISSION STATEMENT? GREAT! HOW DO I START?
Tell a story. Tell a specific story of when you, your team, or your organization is performing at its best. Not too sure what that looks like? Then imagine how it works when you/your team/your organization are performing at it’s peak. There’s only one other rule: Make it specific. Who’s involved in the story? Name them! What happens? How does the story start? What happens at the end when everything’s resolved? It doesn’t have to be a novel, but 50 – 100 words is ideal.
Once you’ve written your story, circle the proper nouns in one color (Note: proper nouns are anything you’d normally capitalize; names, places, organizations, teams, brands etc).
Circle any action verbs in your story in a different color (Note: A verb is anything that can have the word ‘to’ put in front to create an action. For example, to run, to sleep, to eat etc.)
Circle the impact of your action verbs in a third color – when you take these actions, what changes from current state? Also circle anything that details the impact you’re having on the proper nouns you just circles.
In your final color, circle anything that describes the how you’re behaving. These form a part of your values, and can be wrapped into your overall statement.
Now I have a rough outline of what my mission statement should be. I should affinitize to ensure we’ve got things at the right level. It’s easiest done on a separate piece of paper – or better yet, on post-it notes. This is the intent. I know who my mission statement needs to involve, I know what I need to do, and I know what changes as a result of me taking these actions. It’s like the raw ingredients in my mission statement soup. All that’s left to do is wordsmith. Pick your important affinities and connect them, re-read your initial story to further capture the spirit of what your story tried to convey. After playing around with some ideas, I settled on 17 simple words for my mission statement for 2018 and beyond: “I will approach the new year with openness; taking care of myself through exercise, leisure and nourishment. “
So much more impactful than a New Years Resolution. Better still, I can tie specific daily actions to my larger, overall picture.
This is a great exercise to run with teams. It can genuinely to help unify a team with a common purpose, engage them in the big picture stuff and affirm the daily actions they specifically take supports a larger system. It increases buy in, since you can take elements from everyone’s story to begin to create a coherent strategy.