By Jasmina Pacer – Employee Experience Manager
There are two broad definitions of the word “mission,” but they offer very different interpretations. The first views a mission as an important assignment given to a person, or group, for them to carry out (think soldiers). The second though, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, is “any work that someone believes it is their duty to do” (charity, religious, volunteering). In the first, a mission is something imposed, something that you’re told to do; in the second, it’s something that you internally believe you must.
If you’re leading a business, or are part of one, would you rather the people working with you just unthinkingly reproduce what they’re told, or that everyone has a true stake in direction of the organization?
The second, of course!
Through smart planning and self-evaluation, it’s possible for Human Resources professionals to help shift the direction of a company from meaning one to meaning two; to ditch the top-down culture of dictated values and to institute new directions where every employee is engaged and working towards a shared vision. Below is how we at Pointer Brand Protection have revised these important statements, and our tips on how to create the best mission, vision, and core values statement for a business.
Changing Pointer’s Mission
Since 2008, Pointer has been providing brand protection services and anti-counterfeiting solutions for a wide range of brands. We’ve grown our team to include more than 100 people, all working either from our headquarters in Amsterdam or in satellite spaces in New York, Shanghai, and Ukraine. As word of our success in defending brands has spread we’ve experienced a lot of growth, which has meant a lot of organizational change.
As with many businesses which grow rapidly, what became clear was that the mission, vision, and core values that were established at the beginning didn’t necessarily reflect how things had changed. Because we believe in the wisdom of our teams, however, and because we think that hiring the best people and then recognizing their contributions is what differentiates us from our competitors, we decided that it was time to reevaluate our core principles with the people who are at the heart of them.
Practical Steps for (Re)Planning Organizational Values
Initially, the plan was for the three company founders to create renewed mission and vision statements for the business, but then for the core values to be defined through the input of everyone at Pointer. With over 100 people, however, it became apparent that this might present some logistical problems. Taking 100 opinions and then whittling them down to just two sentences was a headache waiting to happen. So, instead, we took some lessons from representative democracy.
We decided to hold a strategy-planning away day where people from all our different teams would come together to revitalize the core beliefs of the company. Rather than randomly appointing people, we asked for volunteers in order to encourage maximum motivation.
The offsite took place in June 2019, in a great location in Amsterdam, right there on the famous canals. We couldn’t have found a better location and it had everything we needed: a great view, lots of space, and enough coffee to wake up the creative part of our brains.
In addition to all that brain-boosting caffeine, creative ice breakers are another proven way of helping to unlock the right side of the brain, the area responsible for creativity and the arts. For this offsite visit we asked our colleagues to explore their visual imaginations by drawing a cartoon, or a set of images, which could help Martians (who do not speak any Earth languages) understand what Pointer does as a business and what each person does in their daily jobs. The outcomes varied but the message was the same; Pointer helps fight online crime and creates a better world.
With everyone feeling energized we then watched a presentation from one of the founders on their vision for the company. The team had the opportunity to ask questions about how Pointer was established, who the first clients were, what the first obstacles and biggest wins were. With this positive and motivated mindset, the group was split into three subgroups of four people, all of whom were asked to brainstorm their own ideas for the new vision and mission based on the changing status of the business they are part of. Every group took a different angle to approach the problem, which was great to see.
The next and most difficult step was to join all the ideas together. Having the input of all the groups, we highlighted those phrases that we collectively agreed on as important; these would be crucial when defining the final mission and vision. It took a couple of tries and lots of paper to come to a final decision on the mission, but eventually the room found a solid set of statements emerging that everyone could agree on. The most challenging parts of any exercise like this is to make sure that, first, people do not stay stuck with their initial ideas and that they should be receptive to change. Secondly, for the collation of team wisdom to be effective, everyone must be heard. These can both be difficult to accomplish, but through mediation, and a combination of group and whole-room work, an interesting new set of statements can emerge.
Once a concrete company mission has been established, writing the vision becomes easier. Linking back to our creative exercises, one of the rules of the session was the “sky is the limit,” so we encouraged the participants simply to let their imaginations loose. We asked them to think about where they saw the company and the industry in a couple of years. Our vision was clear for everyone from the beginning; to be the best!
Finally, a company’s core values are the lived actions it takes to implement its mission and to bring its vision to life. Once you know what it is that you do, and why you’re doing it, think about how you want to achieve those goals. How do you write a set of core values for a business?
What – Why – How
What are the desired behaviors of your employees and colleagues? During the offsite we discussed which values are important to us and which we follow in our work. We asked everyone to first think about it individually and then in pairs, and finally in groups of four. Each group needed to collectively come up with a list of ten values which were common for all the members, resulting in a total list of thirty values. During the discussions we noticed certain similarities in the proposed values, so at the end the list was cut down to ten core values. These values were then shared with the whole organization so that everyone could have a voice in defining our five core values.
After the offsite had finished we spent more time working internally with our marketing department on how to translate everything we had arrived at into a format that would best describe Pointer. Taking everything we had learned from the attendees, we used the original impulses behind the mission, vision, and values and came up with a whole new set of statements which describe Pointer in 2019 and going forward into the future.
Final Thoughts on Writing Mission, Vision, and Values Statements
For some people, talking about missions, visions, and core values can be too indistinct. At Pointer, we believe that these things are crucial to how well an organization performs because they are (or should be) an expression of all the people who belong to it. They aren’t there to be written as an inspirational quote on an office wall and then ignored. For values to work for an organization, they should be lived and incorporated into daily practices because everyone believes deeply in them.
That’s why, based on our mission and vision, we are creating company goals which will be translated into team and individual goals so that our core values will be reflected in everything we do. This means incorporating these values into our recruitment strategy, our client communications, and even the way we review performance. We want our employees to live and breathe our mission and core values because they are the very people who designed them. We want our people to embrace the second meaning of mission; the one that’s an internally driven goal and not a rule imposed by someone else.