W&WP December 2001
Define Your Vision and Mission
By Tom Dossenbach
Last month, I encouraged readers to take a critical look at where their company was and where it was going. Some companies have a clear vision for their future and others have operated for years without one. In either case, every company has a mission whether or not it is stated and recorded.
A furniture manufacturer without a vision of what the company should be or the methods to see that vision realized (a mission) is operating totally "inside the box" with all flaps closed and sealed. Such a company certainly fits the popular phrase: "If you don't know where you are going - any road will get you there!"
Why a Vision and Mission Statement?
Company ownership and management have an obligation to make clear the direction the company should be heading. If not, every employee may have a slightly different focus that could diminish the chances for success.
I have worked with bankrupt woodworking companies and some that were heading for closure even though they did not know it. My strong conviction is that it is impossible to turn a manufacturer around if they first don't cast a vision of a revived company. Without such a vision, there is a tremendous void and no common focus.
A vision alone is basically only a dream. However, coupled with a mission, it is a destination.
The mission of a company is intended to define how to reach the vision. A store fixture manufacturer without a mission statement leaves the door open for all managers and employees to define and work toward their own mission for the company. This does not suggest a malicious agenda, just one that is not on target.
If there is a published vision and mission statement, it is very simple for anyone to question if what they are doing is furthering the vision and mission of the company. Any negative answer to this question indicates a hindrance to the company. In fact, any employee or associate of a company is actually working against the company (and thus contributing to its potential failure) if he or she is not in step with its vision and mission.
Now, ask yourself if the company has a vision and/or mission statement. Are you in sync with it? Is everyone in your organization working toward a common goal?
Vision and Mission Statement in the Works
Company X had filed Chapter 11 and was in dire need of a workout program to emerge from bankruptcy. The company had been loosing money for years and employee morale was at an all-time low. The suppliers of materials and services to the company were demanding cash-in-advance and the customer base was doubtful that the company would survive - much less make deliveries on time.
Obviously the company had been struggling to stay one step ahead of the creditors - or in a "survival" mode - before and since filing Chapter 11.
How are customers going to acquire any confidence in Company X? Likewise, will suppliers feel they are doing business with a company that will survive? Why should employees be motivated to stay and do a good job? What reason would a bank have to lend money to this company?
A statement of ?trust us? will not suffice. A workable plan must be in place and a vision and mission cast to serve as the foundation of that plan. Thus, Company X developed its first-ever vision and mission statement. (See sidebars).
Did this in itself turn the company around? No, of course not. But it did give the company purpose and focus and something to take to the employees to show the new vision. Company X said it was easy to ask them to buy into that vision and subscribe to the mission statement. In fact, the company asked that anyone who could not truly support the new vision and mission of the company to resign that day. No one left but instead all began working that day to implement the mission in order to realize the vision. Each employee associate was given a laminated copy of the statements to carry with them.
Once Company X explained the new commitment of the company (and all of the associates working there) to its customers, they became excited and began sending in orders. It became much easier to work with suppliers and financial institutions.
Your company may not be in financial trouble like Company X was, but that does not mean that there are not valuable benefits to the company for having a vision and mission statement.
How to Start
The next step is for top management to think through the objectives of the company by asking questions such as those that follow:
* Why was the company formed to begin with?
A vision and mission must be cast from the top with the thoughtful input of managers in finance, sales and marketing, manufacturing, human resources and others in key management positions. But, to be most effective, input from employees is also a requirement.
As ideas are assembled for inclusion in the statements, remember that this is the ultimate screen through which customers and others will view who the company is and form their perceptions of the company. It is also a means for your competitors to evaluate you. Therefore, you should be careful not to indicate the strategies the company will use to accomplish its mission.
Many companies will say that they have been doing fine without waving the banner of a vision and mission statement. It is your call.
My challenge at the dawn of 2002 is to review and update vision and mission statements if you have them. If you do not have them in place and published, do it before you get your next issue of Wood & Wood Products and share them with every member of the company, customers, suppliers, and community. If nothing else, it will force you to think through some critical questions for the future of the company.
Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.