A New Vision
Posted by Beth Austin
"This mission, vision, and values work that organizations do is completely unproductive," the keynote speaker said.
Intrigued, but skeptical, I wondered where he would go next with this. He went on to tell the roomful of hospital executives this: "If I asked each of you to write down your mission statement on a piece of paper and give it to me, I could hand them all back out to you at random and most of you would not know whether the one you got back was yours."
Uneasy laughter rippled through the room.
However, the speaker was not negating the importance of setting clear strategic direction for an organization, but suggesting that the process needed an overhaul. An organization doesn't need a mission statement - it needs a "dream."
The idea that organizations should get away from generic and antiseptic visions certainly resonates with me. I've written before about the need for people to have passion about what they do in order to thrive or to help people simply survive the less-than-stellar days. Studies continue to demonstrate that when organizations (and the people that comprise them) are engaged and passionate about what they do, it shows. Customers know it (e.g., Zappos) and a series of articles from the Harvard Business Review and elsewhere suggest that it's also reflected on the bottom line.
The link between employee engagement and organizational success is not a new one, but human resources professionals know that how we define - and foster - employee engagement also needs to evolve. You can't just throw out a "jeans day" and expect to see an improvement in organizational performance. An excellent way to nurture more meaningful engagement is to help employees feel that they are part of something important and that their organization and its leadership are aligned behind goals that are driven by passion. Knowing that their organization has a shared "dream" and that the individual role that they play in making the dream happen are loyalty drivers.
OK, so I'm sure you're thinking it's really easy to blog about this, but what do you actually do, as an organization, to accomplish this? Creating a dream is much harder than establishing traditional mission and vision statements, largely because it requires approaching the process in a new way. For organizations that spend so much time developing their unique selling propositions, it's surprising how similar the results end up sounding. We all can think of organizations at which we suspect their vision statement might be something like: "To relentlessly aspire to do things the way they've always been done before."
All joking aside, doing something truly different requires hard work, but there is a lot to be gained by doing it a new way. Creating your organization's dream requires critical thinking about why you really are unique and developing a distinct vision that aligns with your passions. It requires drawing a line in the sand, so to speak, and announcing to the world what you are and or what you want to become. Challenging yourself to help your organization achieve the dream requires ongoing effort, but these efforts will be recognized by employees, customers, and your community. A different approach can lead to different (and desirable) results.