I love my two girls and they make me laugh. I love listening to them talk as one of them interjects some humorous quip from a movie line. Movie lines can really bring a point home. Not too long ago I was watching the movie Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. Maybe not too much historical reality, but it has some great comedy in it.
One of favorite characters is General George Armstrong Custer. As he and Larry Daley are attempting to thwart the world-domination plot of the evil Kah Mun Rah, Larry suggests that they get a plan together before moving forward. General Custer confidently declares, “We’re Americans, we don’t plan, we do!”
I read an article recently that discussed the value of the terms purpose, mission, and vision and it helped articulate how each is different and necessary for organization health. It was one of those good reads that provided much clarity for me.
Purpose | Mission | Vision
In summary, your purpose statement should answer the question of why you exist as an organization. Your purpose guides you and sets your sights on the bigger picture of why you do what you do. It should be compelling and talked of often.
Your vision statement looks both short-term and long-term to succinctly state what you are desiring to look like. It is a statement of alignment, of always showcasing the proverbial bulls-eye.
And finally, your mission statement is crucial because it lays out and articulates how your organization will get from your purpose to your vision. How is your purpose accomplished and what will it take to get to your vision?
If you are a leader today, and I trust that you are by virtue of your calling and not only your title, these three components are very much a necessary component of good health. And you need to ensure that you, those you serve with, and your constituents understand the why, how, and what of your organization.
I have worked in organizational structures where the purpose statement is crystal clear and beautifully stated. But they do not have a compelling vision of what the future should look like because they are too driven by opinions, whims, finances, or the next best idea. Or an organization sets the vision for the future but does a poor job in how they get there.
Three Fails of a Leader
Leaders fail many times because they are unable to articulate to themselves or others their purpose, mission, and vision. Three important puzzle pieces…or three pathways to becoming irrelevant.
Purpose, mission, and vision are critical to organizational health. And you would be wise to ensure you know how your area or position fits within the purpose of your organization. In not doing this exercise, you are in danger of creating “islands” that may be good, but do not support the “down-the-road” vision. Be aware, stagnation may be close behind.
Knowing the purpose, mission, and vision of my organization is causing me to realize that every decision, every hire, every spend must be done through the grid of why we exist. It helps me in keeping my leaders that I serve with heading in the same direction, both in heart and in action.
Life is short. Make a compelling difference in this world. And what bigger purpose than to realize that all I do must be in support of the Gospel that I live out everyday. I realize the late Steve Jobs was not exactly the Mother Theresa of management, but his “know your purpose” mentality is engaging to me as a leader.
The story is told that Steve Jobs invited John Sculley to a private meeting in 1983. In that meeting, Jobs tried to woo Sculley away from PepsiCo and come lead the ship at Apple. Sculley resisted. As Jobs was making his pitch, he asked a compelling question: “Mr. Sculley, do you want to sit around here, making sugar water the rest of your life…or do you want to change the world?”
In an effort to get things done, we often take on the mindset of General Custer and end up failing in three pivotal areas by not knowing our why, our how, and our what. All three are strategic if embraced or all three are dangerous if ignored.
What are you doing to ensure that purpose, mission, and vision are strong and clear in your organization?
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