Mission, Vision, Values: Do businesses really need them?

 Mission, Vision and Values

A survey recently published in HR Magazine has revealed that for UK companies that have actually gone to the effort of defining their vision, mission and values, that on average only 42% of their employees are aware of their existence; surprising if you consider that these statements are intended to be the ‘North Star’ of an organisation, helping to guide its strategy and decisions. It is also concerning to note that research shows that an increasing number of UK companies don’t have formal versions of these essential statements.

Let us consider if the traditional ‘Mission, Vision, Values’ statement is becoming as outdated as wearing a tie, or are these companies missing a trick?

As a business, we sat down and reviewed our Mission, Vision, Values about 18 months ago and it was quite a journey. Of course there were cynics amongst us who believed them to be largely irrelevant to our business and our customers. Thankfully there were a few enlightened folk that felt that they were an important way of distilling out some key elements of how we do business. Irrespective of the myriad of views, we were all surprised by the work, energy and time that went into getting them right. The wordsmiths within the group looked at the nuances of meaning in every sentence, the cynics threw their hands up and cried “we’re here to make money” and the enlightened saw a way in which some simple sentences could help shape our business going forward.

From a personal perspective I adopted a rather cynical outlook; the company I have been a part of for 19 years is a good one and I knew it to be good. I believed in the people I worked with and trusted the people that led the business. Initially our statements seemed to be of little value to us or our customers. I felt then and still feel now that I would rather demonstrate that we are good at what we do, rather than tell people that we are good at what we do. However, it did come as a surprise that I felt myself buying in to the methodology more and more as the process developed.

The discussions and debates helped me clarify what we actually do, and do well. It helped me appreciate why I have enjoyed being with the company for such a long time and went a long way to explain why we have been successful. That leads me on to the most important thing about the exercise: once the statements were created, they were not printed on posters and forgotten about; instead they have been instrumental in identifying and forming our strategies for the future. For example, if we claim to “nurture” our staff, can we demonstrate it? Are the things we do in line with that statement? If they aren’t, then why are we doing them? Or perhaps more importantly should we be doing them in the first place?

Am I a Mission, Vision, Values convert? Yes, I think I probably am. It would be an exaggeration to say we use them every day but as these relatively simple declarations have helped us establish why we have been successful, why they have made a significant difference to our business, and why it would be ridiculous to then leave them aside.

I am in no doubt that they will be challenged and scrutinised routinely, particularly by our customers, but I am delighted to actively vouch for our Mission, Vision, Values statements and have them published on our website for everyone to see.