Most organizations have a mission statement. Why? Because that’s what we read in some management text. It might appear on a poster in the lobby or be included as part of an annual report. However, the employees do not see it or the value in embodying it and after the tedious nature of drafting it, administrators pay it little attention. A mission statement alone is practically worthless past the organizational window-dressing it provides.
Imagine your organization as a car on a road. Mission only tells the vehicle in which direction to point. Vision is the gas in the gas tank. Vision inspires. Every meaningful thing in human history has occurred as the result of vision, not mission. Values define the boundaries of the roadway. They serve as guideposts for how we move forward. They have to be real and exercised and must be alive in the organization, both internally and externally. We cannot expect our people to value our customers if we do not value our people.
The message here is simple: To have a high-functioning organization you have to possess mission, vision, and values. Of these, the one of the greatest importance is vision. It is also the one most often absent. Most organizations that are idling on the road are essentially going nowhere because their leadership has not put gas in the gas tank (vision).
Generating vision is hard work. It is work that cannot be done by memorandum, a cool poster on a wall, or by good intention. Leadership must get out from behind the desk and speak about vision frequently and passionately. Why do we exist? Why are we special? Why is what we do important? Where are we going? Inspired people can do amazing things.
Ensure you have all three elements to make your organization the best it can be. People will generally not act in a manner that is incongruent with their vision of themselves. Craft that vision and watch your organization excel.