Vision Building Part 3: Mission

Jeff Gardner By: Jeff Gardner  |  January 18, 2021

This is part 3 of a 3-part series on developing Vision for your organization. This series is written by Jeff Gardner using the Collins-Porras Vision Framework. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Mission is the final component of your company’s vision. This refers to a specific, big goal you have as an organization. Your mission connects your purpose and your core values into a single organizational objective that is motivating, compelling AND achievable.

Your mission is something for you and your team to rally around.

You do not need to know how you are going to achieve your mission when you set it. In fact, if you know how you are going to achieve it, you may not be aiming high enough. The purpose of having a mission is to state for your team where you are headed and how you will define success along the way.

Unlike purpose, which you will never fully achieve, mission is a specific goal that you have every intention of fully achieving. Once you determine your mission, you and your team must determine what you need to do to achieve your mission. This is where the magic begins and the team bonds.

Sticking with the MLK example that we have referenced throughout this series, his specific mission may have been, “To enact federal legislation that prohibits racial discrimination in elections in the next 24 months.” That mission has a clear outcome and includes a specified time period. It is a monumental goal that is in direct support of the organization’s purpose.

Think big, and long-term

I generally recommend thinking of your mission as a two- to four-year “stretch” goal, with intermediate milestones to celebrate along the way.

The milestones are important for a couple of reasons. First, it provides smaller, “bite-size” goals that will feel less daunting than your larger mission. Second, it provides you an opportunity to celebrate and create momentum for you and your team when you achieve each milestone.

How to define your mission

Before you start creating your mission, throw away everything you typically think of from corporate mission statements. Most are yawners that are neither inspiring nor compelling. They are not really a mission, but rather are bland descriptions of a company’s products, services and markets. That is why most mission statements get a bad rap: they deserve it.

Instead, think of your mission like the military would think of a mission. Your mission should be something to go after and make happen. It should be action-oriented. It should explicitly motivate your team.

EXAMPLES OF THREE COMMON TYPES OF MISSIONS:

  • Create a Target – “To be #2 in the music industry by the end of decade” (measured by performance in market share)
  • Go after a Competitor – “Crush XYZ Company” (measured by net competitive wins)
  • Internal Goal – “We will innovate faster than anyone in our market” (measured by new product introductions)

At Zen Planner, we established a mission in 2015. As an internal goal, there were two focus points: revenue growth and expansion into new markets (or verticals).

Zen Planner is a Colorado-based company, so we used the tallest mountain in Colorado—Mount Elbert—to illustrate our progress toward our goal. Upon reaching each milestone leading to the ultimate goal, we celebrated with a company event.

While you share your purpose and core values with everyone including those outside your organization, your mission is an internal goal. It is not shared outside of your organization.

Putting it all together

These three components — Purpose, Core Values, and Mission — comprise the three-legged stool of your company’s vision. Each leg is essential to the strength and balance of the whole.

Developing a clear purpose, core values and mission is some of the most important work you will do for your company. Remember, it doesn’t have to be overly complex. By breaking down each component into its fundamental parts, you will be able to execute and implement each one successfully, generating a company vision that will set a strong foundation, and far outlast you.

 


Jeff Gardner
Jeff is the former CEO of ZenPlanner, a Mainsail portfolio company. He currently serves on the Board of Directors at JobNimbus and Fullbay.
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