Total Alignment Blog

How to Create Alignment by Communicating Your Mission

Nothing is more powerful in aligning a group of people than imbuing them with a sense of purpose, a sense of mission. It is the cornerstone of alignment.

In our consulting practice we have reviewed many mission, vision and value statements in organizations worldwide. Having these statements in place is good. But, unfortunately, many of them serve just as inserts in a brochure or a plaque on a wall or a page in company website. Often the statements do really nothing to drive behavior on a day- to- day basis.

There is, in fact, confusion concerning even the meaning of these words. A Mission is the organization’s reason for existence, its statement of purpose. The Vision should be a picture of success in the future, a goal toward which the organization is striving. Values constitute the organization’s belief system. And strategy is the approach to turning vision into reality.

Often mission statements are actually vision statements and communicate what the company wants to achieve within a timeframe. Or vision statements may actually be strategies stating how the organization wishes to pursue its business. These confusing terms need to be replaced with truly meaningful, clear and inspiring statements. A meaningful mission statement in a food company, for example, should not be making money and adding to the stockholder profits. This is neither meaningful nor inspiring for the employees. A more meaningful mission could be providing healthier food to benefit families.

Once a meaningful mission is decided upon, how best communicate it?

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Make sure the mission statement is expressed in clear language, that it is understandable by everyone from the CEO down to the frontline collaborators. Test it with a focused group of your people from different levels of the organization and revise the statement until it clearly communicates the purpose of the organization in a language understandable by all.

Ask your direct reports to communicate this mission to their direct reports, and assure understanding by posing questions about the statement and facilitating conversations at their level. Then, ask them to ask their direct reports to do the same at the next level until the process is cascaded down to the front lines.

And when you manage your people by walking around and talking to them, or when you conduct meetings in person or virtually, be sure you frame your questions in such a way that the mission is at its center. This means that your conversations center on fulfilling the purpose of the organization instead of achieving a certain result. That doesn’t mean you ignore the results; it means you frame your comments such that the achievement of results is the consequence of fulfilling the mission.

Communicating a brief and concise statement that clearly expresses the mission of the organization is one of the key elements necessary for aligning your people. Of course, this alone will not establish nor sustain alignment. More is needed, but it is an excellent start.

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