In the last column we dealt with systems and discussed why they are so necessary to the successful development of an enterprise. In this column we will look at the skeletal structure of a healthy organization by discussing why your organization needs more than a vision and mission statement.
If I were to challenge you to find five companies, churches or organization that presented a thorough plan for organizational excellence where you could see a clear series of methods being used to bring concepts into reality; I would venture to say that you may find it very difficult if not impossible to find two. Many companies, churches and organizations feel that by slapping a bunch of words together, calling it a vision and mission statement, placing them in a frame and then hanging it on a wall is all that there is to making sure their employees, members and supporters know what they are about, know what to do in their specific roles and can communicate the company’s ideals to others. Many companies, churches and organizations find their existence through the flamboyance or magnetism of a strong leader. After the initial thrill has worn off many soon find out that it takes more than flamboyance to make a company great or to cause a church or organization to be effective. Just as a baby is developed over the course of several months by placing malleable tissue over a growing framework of bones and cartilage; so must a company, church or organization by developed over a framework of structure, systems and strategy that can support the continued growth and development of the enterprise.
If you sense that your company, church or organization is stagnant or in decline, it could very well be linked to the fact that you never created a proper framework on which it could grow and develop. Maybe you are guilty of slapping a few words together and later finding out that even you don’t understand or are even inspired by them. All is not lost. A company or organization can be transformed into a totally different entity over a relatively short period of time through the adoption of systems and strategies. Several years ago I did some research on what it takes to create synergistic, optimized and vibrant organizations. I found some great information but it is one piece of data that I really would like to share with you as it relates to this conversation, and that is The Balanced Scorecard. On its website The Balanced Scorecard Institute presents a circular and pyramid model that relates to the building of proper framework for a viable organization. During my research I used their model to create a Balanced Scorecard for the company that I was employed with at the time. Those points are presented and explained as follows;
Mission – In the creation of a Mission Statement one need only provide answers to these three questions – what is our purpose, what do we do & why do we do what we do? Answering these three questions and reducing them down to as few words as possible without losing the essence of the answer, gives you a sensible, clear and simple mission statement. For example, a barber may answer the questions in this way, my purpose is to build self esteem and confidence in young men, I accomplish this by being an agent that teaches and delivers proper grooming standards (cutting hair), I do this because I recognize that when young men receive an outstanding hair cut it changes their appearance for the better, gives them a more confident posture and builds their self-esteem. That barber’s finished mission statement may look something like this … “Through exceptional personal grooming services ‘A2Z Supercuts’ will improve the community by providing outstanding hair cuts to men and boys that will improve their appearance, build their self-esteem and lead them to become positive contributors in the society.” Now a hair cut does not stop violence or other vices, however; if you can make people feel better about themselves they tend to do more positive things that are in keeping with their new sense of self worth. It is not the millions of gallons of water that creates the force of the waterfall but the willingness of every single drop to contribute to the power of the whole.
Vision – A vision statement need only consider one question; what is our picture of the future? This barber could create a vision statement that sounds like this … “’A2Z Supercuts’ will develop a generation of gentlemen who are confident in themselves and influence others to follow a similar example.’ When added together the mission and vision statement may sound like this … “A2Z’s purpose is to improve the community by providing outstanding grooming services to men and boys who through their change in appearance will be more confident, recognize their inner value and eventually become the gentlemen that they truly are.” Both items should tie into each other and speak of the present actions (mission – purpose, what we do, why we do) and then give an indication of the future result of those current actions (vision – where will we be in 5, 10, 15 years). Most companies stop building a structure after they have put together a mission and vision statement. However, they must recognize that it is critical to move from the present state of the company to the future state of the company. A baby is an immature man and only comes to be a man through a process of maturation. Mission statements are like a birth certificate and vision statements are like a christening certificate but after those are accomplished that child must grow up and reach the potential it possesses inside. This takes time, effort and patience. Similar to our example of using a baby, the points that follow are the maturation stages of a business. If the business never grows up, you will find 20 year later a business dwarfed in size and capacity, still making the same mistakes it made in its infancy – figuratively wearing diapers and operating with unfulfilled potential.
Strategic Perspectives – this item asks about results and how we are to evaluate them. In the case of the barber he may approach this aspect of his operational structure by creating a survey that customers can answer honestly so that he becomes aware of whether his current actions are achieving the results that are in line with his mission and vision. You must measure what you are doing! You cannot take for granted that your service is second-to-none and that it does not need to be improved.
Strategic Themes & Results – In this area of the business the barber must now ask the question; what are my main areas of focus? What results do I want to achieve in order to satisfy the customer’s needs? In this area the barber must set quality goals for himself (number of cuts per hour, acceptable percentage of quality haircuts based on daily or weekly customer feedback, use of the best products and machines) and must then incorporate the feedback he gets from his customers (for example a customer may say, “I prefer ‘X’ product to ‘Y’ when you are finishing my haircut” or “I want to be shaved by a rotary trimmer rather than a razor”). It is only by this kind of understanding that the barber will soon see an increase in customer loyalty, a greater acceptance of his vision to create gentlemen and improved service delivery standards. Many people are not inclined to write things done but rely on memory to run their operations, this is a fatal mistake. It is important to document your progress and actions; for it is by this that you will know how well you are progressing, what you need to change and what is the general health of your business.
Objectives – The question that must be answered here is what continuous improvements are needed to get results? In this instance the barber has to set some objectives for himself like upgrading his skills, learning innovative haircuts from other barbers or magazines, trying new ideas and techniques and asking the customers what they would like to see. This approach creates a strong bond between the barber and the customers; it challenges the barber to stay on the cutting edge and ensures that quality stays high. Customers appreciate that.
Strategy Map – this can look like a jumbled mess when viewed for the first time but once you know how to read them you soon see it as a map that can be used to navigate your business operations, be sensitive to the customer’s behavior, see daily results and view future projections all on the one document. Strategy maps answer the question … How do we create and improve value for customers? It introduces new products, refines processes, and creates an avenue for the customer’s voice to be heard consistently and as a result one can then develop and create initiatives to answer their needs and wants.
Performance Measures & Targets – everyone needs to get feedback, whether it is the CEO or the janitor. In business there must be an ongoing dialog between the company and the customer. This is the stage where that happens. It answers the question … are we achieving the results we want from the actions and efforts we are exerting? It is here where companies would use surveys, interviews and internal reports to determine where they are on target and then create a plan to make improvements as necessary.
Strategic Initiatives – this is where the rubber meets the road! After all the talk about reports and interviews, market tests and statements; there must come a time when the business must act! It is at this juncture that the company must implement the projects and programs necessary to contribute to the results they desire. From a philosophical point of view the mission and vision statements act as a rallying cry for the organization but it’s the implementation of strategy that injects energy and action into an organization’s operation. In physical terms the mission and vision are the brain and the strategic initiatives are the feet; while everything in between operates to ensure that what is thought of is eventually carried out.
There’s a reason why recipes and maps are created. Recipes show that consistent results can be achieved when a set series of actions are followed and maps enable a destination to be arrived at even without prior knowledge of where one may be going. In business the recipe and map is called the balanced scorecard. It allows organizations to utilize a set series of actions to reach consistent business results and allows business leaders to march confidently towards an unknown destination.
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