When your automobile is not aligned, you can take your hands off the steering wheel and the vehicle will veer to the right or left. Veering leads to taking you off the main road or driving on the wrong side of the road. Veering off the road or into another lane can have consequences for the vehicle, passengers, other vehicles and passengers in other vehicles. Organizations veer off the main path when the strategies, goals and objectives are not aligned with accomplishing the vision, mission, and values. Each decision must include a yes response to the question, “Will this strategy, goal or objective help us meet the mission and vision, and reflect the values of the organization?” To answer this question accurately everyone in the organization must know, and keep before them at all times, the vision, mission, and values.
A vision statement is forward thinking and paints a mental image of the ideal state that the organization wants to achieve. The statement should inspire, aspire, and challenge all team members. It has been said many times that people perish from a lack of vision. Vision brings in guardrails and restraints for all in the organization. When the guardrails are non-existent and the restraints are loosened, the organization will wander aimlessly without a focus. Horse riders will use the restraints to guide the horse, which is a different visual than a horse running aimlessly, usually in the wrong direction, without a rider. The organization must keep the vision before the people in the organization and make it simple. It is the board’s responsibility to set the vision. There cannot be multiple visions and the vision should not change when the board chair changes.
The mission statement should support the vision and explain why the organization exists and describes the purpose, intention, and overall objectives to all internal and external stakeholders. Imagine a family discussion and an adult announces we are going to visit grandma and grandpa during the next holiday. The children may ask why are we visiting them and how are we getting there. The announcement paints the vision, while the responses to the children’s’ questions identifies the mission. It is important to communicate the what, where, when, why, and how within the organization because the team members are just as curious as the children and the responses will bring reasoning into the plan.
A values statement lists the core principles that guide and direct the organization and its culture. In a values-led organization, the values create a moral compass. Values give team members a work purpose and reason for how to conduct business. An adherence to values aligns decision making with the vision and mission. Values communicates the differentiation between the organization and competitors in the same industry. Simon Sinek said, “Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or worse.” Organizational values begin with the leaders. If there is shady business occurring, go straight to the top to ascertain if the leader is shady and usually the answer is yes.
The vision, mission and values statement should be prominently displayed throughout the organization. All team members should be able to recite all three statements verbatim. Do you want to hear a chorale ensemble singing the same lyric in a song, yet they are singing different words? These statements should be recited at the beginning of all team meetings. All board reports should have these three statements at the top of the report. If your board members have name plates, place these statements on the back of the name plates. If there are no name plates, tape them at each seat. Referring back to these statements can move a board forward as they begin to spiral in their discussion.