Observation: The importance of a clear and agreed-upon mission and vision statement is vital to organizational growth and development. These core pieces communicate culture and guide day-to-day operations and actions. Most find mission and vision statements work less than ‘interesting’.
Background:The Board had recognized many items that fall into the ‘every 5 years’ review and reflect tasks had now become a 6-7-year lag in board tasks. (How this came to pass is another blog reflecting on the ‘inertia’ that happens when an organization is ‘too busy’ trying to serve and stay afloat while growing ‘too fast’.) The board had taken on the task of working through the 26-page report of recommendations from a comprehensive organizational 360˚ report done the month prior. The need for a refreshed mission statement was now urgent. One of the concerns the 360˚ report revealed was the need to reestablish trust and create consistency across the organization.
Observation: When an organization is struggling to keep up with growth it is hard to see the value in spending time ‘wordsmithing’. Organizations who have not devoted time to this process lament the breakdown in communications and culture that occurs when the essential core practices are ignored for the sake of ‘being too busy.
Behind the scenes details: A task force of staff and board members was organized. This was the easy part. The challenge came in scheduling and understanding expectations by setting agreements for pre-work.
The goal: For 6 weeks, meet once a week for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the work flow projected.
The setting and accepting of expectations: All on the task for agreed to do the pre-work BEFORE the meeting so the discussion and interaction over zoom platform was useful and relevant. (NOTE: This all happened pre- pandemic so zoom was still new to the organization and staying on camera and engaged worked well at this time.)
Accepting the expectation allowed the pre-work to cultivate an understanding of terms and concepts as most of the folks on the committee did not have a background in marketing. All on the committee had extensive educations, writing experiences, and high value on word meaning. Getting to the “short and sweet and meaningful’ might have been a challenge if the pre-work had been omitted. All agreed on the proposed formula to craft the mission statement1.
The committee members did the work and the facilitator coached, encouraged, and held the group accountable to a timeline and an outcome needed for presentation to the larger board. The facilitator worked the project much like one gets ready to paint a room. The more prep in getting ready to paint the better the result of the painting. This was especially true for this task force. Busy, high-achieving individuals from across the organization were a bit skeptical with the very tight time frame.
Observation: When isn’t an urgent matter not on a tight time frame?
The result: When it came time to present the proposed renewed mission statement to the full board the prep and the level of trust established from working within agreed expectations paid off. The usual questions a larger group has when evaluating a ‘new to them’ proposed statement (‘why this word and why not that word?”) was easily addressed by the whole task force. And, the larger board felt heard and respected by the questions and answer session around the proposed statement. Since the presenting team was prepared and excited about the process, the review presentation did not spiral into an unproductive presentation producing less than satisfactory results. The recommended mission statement was enthusiastically accepted. The next task for the board to tackle, renewing the vision and values statement with a plan for cross-organization representation, was embraced. There was excitement in the group. The daunting task of taking care of board tasks felt possible.
The overall feeling of the group as they continue to work on these foundational issues was energy and excitement. Yes. Excitement. The realization that mission vision work is essential and ‘interesting’ helped this board achieve a major recommendation from the 360˚ report: Agree on your mission. Clarity of mission is vital to organizational development and growth.
Tips & Resources: 1Knowing which formula/template to choose for writing mission/ vision/ values/ purpose statements is critical. There are many to choose from. Working to restore trust and also strengthen the organization’s core value of transparent communication helped determine which formula to facilitate. Want to know how to determine the organizations learning/ communication styles to help facilitate better meetings and ad hoc project committees? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Use ‘formula/template help’ in the subject line.