ALWAYS STARTING WITH THE END IN MIND

Many leaders with whom I have shared The Business Code with put it into action by using it as the framework for visioning and strategic planning.

It works well as a planning tool because, at a high level, it asks you to begin with the end in mind. It requires you to consider three key questions:

  1. “What are we intending to do?”
  2. “Why?”
  3. “How do we align everyone to our intention?”

This takes us back to asking and answering the question of why we are in business.

The ultimate goal of all businesses, the end game, is to provide a product or service to the marketplace that provides benefit to the customer and that will enable the company to win in the marketplace.

In competition with others, the goal of any business, whether it’s a small one-person company or a large multinational corporation, is to win the customer.

If you win the customer, they spend money with you instead of your competitors. If you do this well, you get to reap the benefits — profit. You then get to take the profits and, if you choose, reinvest in your business and win more customers and make more money.

To do this, you have to get clear on the what and why of your business.

This is all fairly basic and straightforward. What is often overlooked is that success always requires the identification of, agreement on, and successful communication of a brand intention.

A company’s brand intention creates a consistent thread of thinking, motivation, and action that makes it possible for every person in the organization at any given time confronted with any circumstance or in any situation to make decisions and act in alignment. From the top down, in any role in the organization, when individuals and groups decide among the options before them, they should be able to identify and take the action that is in alignment. Not just for the purpose of getting something done; rather, they take action and do it in a way that is consistent with the intention and the deliverable to the customer.

Brand intention can take a variety of forms, each of which provides the messaging and articulation of what the company or team aspires to deliver to the market. Whether it is a mission statement, a purpose, a vision, or a code of principles, companies are better aligned when they go beyond their mission or vision statement to clearly articulate their brand intention.

The goal of an extraordinary vision or mission statement is to effectively communicate in the most simple and authentic manner the what and the why of the company and emotionally engage its customers and employees.

This is often not as easy as it appears. Saying that your company will be world class, the best in its industry or the most innovative will likely not communicate what your company has to offer or articulate clearly a desired future state. A firm using a mission statement, “To Be the World’s Best Accounting Firm,” is not likely to convey its brand intention to its customers. Nor is the intention going to be clear to the firm’s members, who are expected to aspire to and fulfill it.

Two aspects of a mission or vision statement are valuable to consider.

The first is exploring whether it conveys the emotion and customer motivation of the brand intention. A vision or mission is an important element in how a company communicates its brand. The more it conveys the customer motivation that a company’s product or service represents, the greater its ability to emotionally engage the customer. If a mission statement or vision does not accomplish this, it is not the end of the world and it is not an indicator of whether a company is going to be successful or not. On the other hand, when a company’s mission or purpose statement is aligned to and clearly articulates its brand intention, the company is that much further along in communicating with its customers and members.

This leads us to the second aspect, which is the influence a mission or vision has on a company’s culture. When clearly articulated, the vision or mission provides a focal point and psychological reinforcement for what and why the company exists and acts as a steady beacon for alignment.

When done well, it contributes to employee engagement and helps to recruit people who are interested in working in a company that is aligned to who they are.

The better a mission statement, vision, or other forms of communication connects to customer motivation and brand intention, the stronger and more effective the appeal is likely to be. Wal-Mart’s “to help people save money” does a great job of communicating low price. If the statement does not clearly convey the brand intention, the company has to take steps to assure that, in one form or another, it clearly communicates the customer motivation to the marketplace and to its employees. However it is achieved, it’s vital that they do it and do it well.

Creating or revisiting your mission statement

If you intend to create a mission statement or revisit the one you have, look at the mission and purpose statements of companies you admire, companies and businesses that are similar to yours as well as those of your direct competitors.

You’ll likely find that there are some you like and others you don’t. You’ll find words and phrases that are attractive to you and others that are not. You’ll find some that you can trust and others that you can’t.

Other approaches to creating or realigning your mission or vision include a host of Internet sites and services that provide methodologies and best practices for formulating a statement. There are brand consultants who provide resources and processes. Whatever course of action you choose, the result should be to create a statement that best represents your company’s aspirations for the future, best conveys your customer motivation and brand intention, and emotionally communicates your vision or mission to the marketplace.

 

Edgar Papke is the co-author of Innovation By Design and author of True Alignment and The Elephant In The Boardroom. He helps leaders and their organizations align to create greater levels of innovation, performance, and fulfillment. He can be reached by email: edgar@edgarpapke.com

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