The Top 5 Corporate Vision, Mission, and Values Warning Signs

The Top 5 Corporate Vision, Mission, and Values Warning Signs
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Watch Out for Corporate Vision, Mission, and Values Warning Signs
Effective corporate vision, mission, and value statements enlist the hearts and minds of your organization by providing strategic and cultural context for their work.  And strategic and cultural context matters. 

Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity and cultural alignment accounts for 71% of the difference between high and low performing organizations in terms of revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.

And today to keep up, every level of the organization is being pressured to make faster and more high stakes decisions with less information and less resources.  For individuals and teams to understand how their contribution matters, they need a clear line of sight to the overall strategic aims of the organization and the explicit behavioral rules of the road along the way.

In many organizations, enormous amounts of effort and time are devoted during strategy retreat facilitation to formulating these three strategic drivers: Vision, Mission, and Values.

But the fact remains that, often, vision, mission and values statements fail to be truly relevant and thus do not fulfill their purpose. Why do they fail? Here are a few warning signs that your guiding statements need revamping or improvement.

The Top 5 Corporate Vision, Mission, and Values Warning Signs

  1. Lack of Being Truly Vision-, Mission-, or Values-Driven
    The truth is that not all organizations are vision-, mission-, or values-driven.  Not all organizations need a strong vision or mission statement to succeed. And not all companies need explicit values to do the right things for the right reasons.

    While vision and mission statements are undeniably powerful in terms of creating focus and engagement if you are trying to cure cancer or change the world, some companies exist for far less grandiose reasons.

    Sometimes to be successful, organizations just need to better align how work gets done in a way that makes sense to employees, partners, and customers.  They need clear goals, roles, success metrics, and behavioral expectations – not elaborate visions, missions, or values that do not resonate with why they joined the company or what their work is truly about.

    If you are struggling to create compelling, inspiring, and meaningful vision, mission, and value statements, it is fair to ask yourself if you really need them to get where you want to go.

  2. Lack of Differentiation
    Not only do companies confuse mission and vision, but they often create such generic visions, missions, and values that they can be interchanged from company to company, and even industry to industry. To have value, these statements should be as specific as possible and reflect your unique organization.

    To be meaningful, your vision statement should clearly articulate what you hope to become in the future.  It should be inspiring, challenging, motivating, memorable, purpose-driven, and unique.  Similarly, your mission statement should define the fundamental purpose of your business.  It should touch upon your ideal target customers, your fundamental products and services, your core competencies, and the distinctive benefits and desired results you deliver.  And to be effective, corporate values need to have some teeth to them through proportionate rewards and consequences.

    If your vision, mission, or values could be used at another organization or are designed to appeal to everyone, they probably are not as powerful and unique as they need to be to drive higher performance.  In our opinion, your vision, mission, and values are predominately for employees.  They are the ones who you want to be inspired, guided, and energized by well-crafted, meaningful statements of direction and expected behavior.

  3. Lack of Realism
    Powerful corporate vision, mission, and values are inspiring and potent because they motivate and align people to achieve meaningful things in an agreed upon manner.  However, too many vision and mission statements are so unrealistic that they become demotivating. Sure, a vision should be inspiring and challenging, but it cannot be unrealistic. 

    And most companies either focus on aspired values that are not truly lived or have the same generic values of integrity, teamwork, inclusion, innovation, and accountability that do not set them apart from the pack.

    Articulate a vision and mission that are meaningful because you can genuinely imagine achieving them in the future with the right focus, effort, and determination.  Create values that form the bedrock of how you expect people to behave to succeed in your unique culture.

  4. Lack of Buy-In
    While we believe that strategies (vision, mission, and priorities) should be set from the top-down by the executive team, we also believe that those responsible for executing the strategies need to be actively involved in the strategy design process.  We believe that values (as long as they are within boundaries set by the executive team) should be created from the bottom up.

    Buy-in is paramount because your strategy must go through your people and your culture to be successfully implemented.  When employees are actively involved in designing strategies, the misunderstandings and miscommunications that can sabotage understanding, commitment, and execution drastically decline.  It also allows the people on the front-lines to ensure your plans make sense.

  5. Lack of Accountability
    Words alone won’t provide the inspiration or guidance your organization needs to succeed. For the statements to lead toward success, they must actually direct the behaviors and actions of the organization. All employees must be accountable to live by them.

    Do you have a fair, timely, accurate, meaningful, consistent, proportionate, and relevant way to measure, reward, and provide consequences for people’s behaviors related to your vision, mission, and values?  If not, it is fair to ask if they are worth creating in the first place.

The Bottom Line
Vision, Mission, and Value Statements can be helpful and inspiring, or they can be insipid and demotivating. If you intend to go to the trouble of crafting them, make sure you avoid the top 5 corporate vision, mission, and values warning signs.

To learn more about creating effective strategies for success, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy

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