Why it’s time to throw your mission, purpose & values in the bin

by | Jan 22, 2020 | EX & EVP

Why it’s time to throw your mission, purpose & values in the bin

Now, before I begin let me establish that, despite what the title of this piece suggests, I genuinely believe that an organisation’s mission, purpose and values (MPV) can be incredibly valuable and powerful assets.  A clear, well-communicated MPV that your people believe in and buy into will help you drive your company forward and cultivate a high-performance, positive working culture. But, they can also be perceived as a pile of rubbish that has people sniggering every time they’re mentioned – that’s why it might well be time to scrap every single word of what you currently have in place…and start again.

Heading over to dictionary corner… as a general definition, a company’s purpose is the reason it exists, whilst its mission is what it does and for whom. Values set out how an organisation will achieve its mission. The reason that these are important is they provide a common purpose and understanding amongst people – both being crucial components of positive working culture. Without common purpose, an organisation’s people become fragmented and subsequently productivity, motivation and commitment drop significantly.

Whilst the majority of us will have MPV, all too often the motivation behind them is misguided. We see them as a set of guidelines and behaviours that our people should abide by and any potential recruit should fit. They are dictated from above and seen as rules that should be followed – be like this or it’s not going to work out! I remember being tested by management on what they were at a previous company and rather than “feeling” them, I had to learn them like Latin vocab and they stuck with me about as much (amo, amas, a…no idea). The likelihood is that they do very little, if anything, to inspire the people that they’re meant to be for – especially if they are not representative of who the organisation really is.

If this is the case, then, very much like if you had no MPV at all, your people will feel no affinity and no ownership over them whatsoever. It’s a sad state of affairs but we’ll probably find that this is the case in most of our organisations. And, we wonder why we can’t motivate our people more or they don’t care more about what we’re trying to do! The thing is most of our employees want to care and we’re not giving them the chance to.

So, how can you give your people ownership of your mission, purpose and values? Cue Meerkat moment….Simples! As I said at the beginning of this piece, throw your current set in the bin and start again – involving your people in every step of the process.  

Consider holding workshops with mixed groups of your employees, explaining what you’re doing and why. Take this opportunity to do two things:

  • Explain your vision and objectives for the future – talk about where you would like to take the company and why they have such a key role in helping you achieve it.

  • Find out what kind of organisation they want to work for – what does this company stand for, what is the working culture like and how is this company led?

If done right, your people will now have a clearer idea of what you’re trying to achieve and you will have a better picture of what they want from an employer (and how that differs from your current situation). It’s then up to you to work out how both points might be able to be achieved – what does success look like, who is responsible for what aspects and, perhaps most importantly, what needs to change in order to make it happen? You know when they talk about having your cake and eating it? If you get this right, there’ll be a whole mess of cake to go around – you get your people on board with what you’re trying to do and they’ll feel a new-found responsibility for helping you achieve it. In return, all you need to do is promise to be the employer of their dreams (easy).

At the end, put this all into a new set of mission, purpose and values.

Depending on the size of your organisation, you will likely need to do this several times with different groups in order to involve as many people as possible. At the end, you will have many different versions to choose from based on the input of your people. It’s then up to you to either establish the common themes and create a final version yourself or you could throw it back out to your people and have them vote on the version that resonates most with them. Pleasing everyone might well be an impossible task but at least you know that the final version will be one that means something to the majority of people.

This will undoubtedly feel like a big project and a time-consuming process, however the rewards are significant and you have nothing to lose. With a genuinely aspirational and inspirational set of mission, purpose and values, you’ll have your people on side with a real sense of shared purpose and a new lease of life when it comes to their work. They’ll be working towards goals that they feel part of setting and for an employer that values their input. All of these are powerful motivators and will see productivity, commitment happiness soar. Rather than having to cram them down people’s throats like those Latin lines (amat? amati? I give up), they’ll be shouting them back at you before you get the chance to ask!

Your company’s mission, purpose and values are there for your people, so it’s only right that they should have control of them. Give them a chance to care and all enjoy a big slice of cake together.

We’d love to talk to you more about how you can build a positive, inclusive culture in your organisation – get in touch 

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