As you reflect on what could be the “new normal”, now is the perfect opportunity to refresh what your organization stands for. It is almost certain that your old mission, vision and values do not entirely match the context of today. But how can a company seek to renew its mission, vision and values?
First, start by asking a series of simple questions: What is the main purpose of our collective work, or our mission? What do we hope to achieve together, or our vision? And what core principles, or values, will guide how we work together as colleagues and for our clients? Finally, what has changed? What is obsolete and should be left out? What is new to adopt?
With these questions in hand, corporate leadership teams need to design a process to ask these questions in the community, and then embed the answers into the culture. Engage your employees when you ask the questions, then communicate the answers to everyone in the company.
Every great culture needs a mission, a vision and values. Its mission is the indelible purpose and raison d’être of the organization. Its vision is its aspiration for itself. And its values (or virtues) are the way an organization commits to doing business – a statement about how a company does what it does and the principles it will consistently uphold. But these are never meant to be static. Just as the environment around a business changes, the business itself must change.
As you ponder what the “new normal” might be, it’s time for organizations to rethink what they stand for. The world has changed with Covid, and it is almost certain that your old mission, vision and values do not entirely correspond to the current context. There’s a new focus on things like health (both mental and physical), flexibility, diversity and equity, and other topics. Your customers have probably radically reinvented their life or business, forcing them to re-evaluate what they want or need from your business. And people in your organization are likely more focused on their purpose but less connected to what you stand for, either because they’re new (given the high turnover) or because they’re reinventing themselves.
But how can a company seek to renew its mission, vision and values?
It is essential that the leadership team of an organization – from CEO to CEO – takes ownership of an organization’s mission, vision and values and the process by which they are articulated. But as I note in the HBR guide to defining your goal, every person in an organization has a role to play, whether it’s shaping the larger business process, their own business, or the culture of their individual teams. Thus, these statements must be owned and updated by the organization as a community.
Typically, the organization’s leadership team (including the CEO) will initiate the process by asking a series of simple questions:
- Mission: What is the main objective of our collective work? Why do we exist and do what we do? It is the North Star around which cultures are built, the one thing each person can point to as their reason for working in community.
- Vision: What do we hope to achieve together? I prefer them to be both ambitious and achievable, meaning they articulate a bold long-term vision, but one that can actually be achieved by the business (rather than so bold that it’s weird or unattainable) . It’s the heart of the journey you’re on together and how you know if you’re making progress.
- Values: What core principles will guide how we work together as colleagues and for our clients? Values are an organization’s moral code – the set of rules that you all adopt and follow, which reflect the ethics of the people in the organization and hold everyone accountable to the right standard of behavior.
In addition, it is important in each area to ask “what has changed” over the past two years, which can reveal interesting insights into underlying changes in the culture and direction of the organization. business. What is obsolete and should be left out? What is new to adopt?
As a general rule, the ultimate answers to these questions should be simple, memorable, and authentic. The mission and vision should be one sentence each and easy enough to remember for people to repeat. They don’t have to be incredibly original, but they should be authentic and distinct enough that you can use them to hold each other accountable. Values should be a simple word or phrase which again does not need to be completely original, but should be distinct, meaningful and memorable.
With these questions in hand, corporate leadership teams need to design a process to ask these questions in the community, and then embed the answers into the culture. Legendary artist Michelangelo once wrote that, “Each block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” The mission, vision and values are the same. They already exist within your work and your staff. The job of an organization and its leaders is not to impose these things like a blank canvas, but to carefully chisel, shape and refine what is already there.
Here are some tips for engaging your employees when you ask the questions outlined above and then communicate the answers to everyone in the company:
Engage the organization holistically.
Let everyone in the organization know that you are embarking on an overhaul of mission, vision and values, with particular consideration to the changes that have occurred over the past two years. Make the process formal and public, and treat it as a fun way for everyone to re-engage with the company’s purpose and principles – or help new hires connect more with the organization. Especially in hybrid or remote environments, this can be a great way to reconnect colleagues to the organization and to each other.
Listen carefully and authentically.
Ask senior managers to engage a large group of employees directly. Some of these can be enabled by technology – videos of leaders sent to everyone, surveys and online tools where employees can submit ideas. But a lot of it should be real person-to-person contact. Senior executives, from CEO to CEO, must personally lead various focus groups across the organization, in person or via video, to connect with a large group of people and hear their feedback directly. In this process of crafting corporate purpose, leaders must foster a culture of receptivity to feedback on the mission, vision, and values that will last long after the formal exercise. Highlight great employee feedback. Reward him. And cultivate a leadership team that listens with gratitude.
“Launch” new statements, then communicate consistently.
Communicate company-wide vision, mission and values. Post them on office walls and send each employee a wallet-sized card showcasing them. Put them on the website (possibly with more detailed explanations for simple builds) for external customers to see. Ask leaders to incorporate them into company discussions, presentations, and events comprehensively. And think of some “swag” (t-shirts, coffee mugs or similar items) to celebrate their release. We often need to hear things 6-20 times before internalizing them (called “effective frequency” in advertising), consistent communication is therefore essential.
Recognize those who live the company’s purpose and values.
Humans learn best through stories. Words about abstract concepts are fine, but concrete examples of employees living the vision, mission, and values are irreplaceable. They also provide an opportunity from the outset and over time to reward and applaud employees in an organization who are carriers of culture. Find stories of employees demonstrating the company’s purpose and highlight small pockets where you are achieving parts of the vision – perhaps with interviews and customer or employee profiles. Film videos of co-workers celebrating when they saw others living the company’s values. Create corporate awards that publicly recognize culture bearers who are leading the way.
Purpose matters more than ever to businesses and individuals. Now is an essential time to reconsider your company’s mission, vision and core values. To neglect this moment would be a missed opportunity. A thoughtful approach to these topics can produce a focused, re-energized and fresh culture.