Your organizational mission is often said to be a statement of purpose or mission statement. We work with companies to create their corporate culture, rather than that culture be developed for them. We have defined corporate culture as the synergy created between your mission, vision, and values. So, of course, we should develop our mission first, right?
Start with Why? Maybe not…
In the hugely successful TED talk and book written on the same subject Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek suggests that defining your why your reason for doing what you do is the most important question one could ask of themselves. Understanding Why will allow for you to then determine the what and how. I do not disagree; however, we believe there is a precursor to defining your why. That starting point is your vision.
A vision is simply a point in the horizon. A place we have not yet reached. It is a place that we would like to be, and once we see ourselves creating. This to me is the starting point. What is your vision? Can you see it? I suggest working on this until it is so clear, you could paint a picture of this place. In mine, I can see the details so clearly. I see the people who are with me, I see the fence posts and the scenery. More than that however is that I can see how it feels to be in that scene.
From there, it is easy to determine my Why? Why is that scene so important to me? Why do I exist? Then the hard work comes so I can develop a plan that will ensure that vision becomes a reality? This is my mission. My mission or purpose supports my vision. It leads to the vision, and I know that by fulfilling my mission, I will eventually reach that point in the horizon. Interestingly enough, this process creates a circle that also gets me back to my Why. Maybe Sinek is right!
First Things First
Too often our clients start with the what, then try to determine how. While I do believe these are very necessary operations and require time and energy to figure out, they are tactical rather than strategic operations. Tactics are important to be sure. They should not however be determined before strategy. Just as a strategy should not be determined before setting goals, and goals should not be set before having a clear vision.
Come Full Circle… Maybe Sinek is Right
Certainly, your vision will never be realized without action (tactics), and that action should be consistent with your mission (purpose). Our recommendation is that your purpose will not make any sense if there is not a clear picture of where you are going, or where you want to be.
If you simply start with the tactics you will soon be led to confusion, misalignment, and even chaos. If you start with your Organizational Mission, you will be in a better place, but how can you ensure that will be the place you want to end up? Spend some time reflecting. See if you cannot conjure up a place on the horizon, that you would like to create. Then do as Sinek suggests and Start with Why.