Culture transformation may become necessary for an organization for any number of reasons. The loss or addition of a key executive, acquisition by another firm, or an effort to take the company in a new direction are all opportunities to shape new behaviors and attitudes. Regardless of your reasons, when it’s time for a culture transformation, the first item to tackle is the mission. These four keys to redefining your mission statement will help you take the first steps toward achieving the culture you want (or need) for your organization.
1. Understand Why the Mission Matters
An organization’s mission, sometimes referred to as the vision, is essentially its reason for being. The mission states why the company exists, and it can typically be captured in a sentence or two. It serves as an anchor for leadership when making significant decisions. It should also be easily remembered as a reference for all employees as they make daily choices about their behavior.
Companies with a strong mission attract individuals who are in alignment with the company’s organizational values and can be enthusiastically engaged in doing the work required to achieve the defined goals. On the other hand, a company with a weak or poorly defined mission often has employees who are just in it for the paycheck. This can result in high turnover, poor employee engagement, and low productivity.
While these might be intuitive conclusions, research from Gallup confirms that it’s true. Gallup’s analysis showed that a mission:
- Increases employee loyalty, regardless of generation
- Promotes customer engagement
- Helps leaders maintain strategic alignment
- Provides clarity to leadership when making decisions
- Can be measured through employee behaviors
These benefits contribute to leadership with clear direction, a more satisfied workforce, happier customers, and, ultimately, better results.
2. Know the Difference Between Mission and Culture
Mission and culture are often mistaken for the same thing, but they are in fact complementary to each other. The mission defines why the organization exists, while the culture is how the organization brings that mission to life. Culture is defined by the behaviors of the individuals in an organization and how they interact to get work done. By understanding and embracing the mission of the company, both leadership and employees are able to exhibit the behaviors and make the decisions that create a complementary culture.
3. Read the Signs That It’s Time to Redefine
In a perfect world, mission and culture will always align. However, various circumstances can contribute to a disconnect that results in a culture that does not support the mission or even just a lack of a unified culture. When considering a culture transformation, the first step is to determine if the current mission is appropriate for the organization’s present reality and future. Look for the following signs that it’s time to redefine the mission.
- The business has evolved beyond its original intent.
- Newly discovered customer needs require a different approach.
- You have achieved early goals and have expanded the vision.
- Market trends or new competitors have changed the way you do business.
Take a look at your current mission and ask yourself if it still fits. If not, what elements are missing, and what can be removed? Organizations are not static entities, so it’s not only okay but often necessary to periodically re-evaluate the mission.
4. Know How to Define Your Mission
Once you recognize that the mission could use an overhaul, you need to define a new one. For some organizations, this is an easy task, but for others, it is not as easy to pin down. Start by answering four simple questions.
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
- Whom do we do it for?
- What value do we provide?
A mission statement doesn’t have to be elegant or clever; it just has to be straightforward and understood by everybody in the organization. It’s also important to remember that a mission doesn’t have to be focused solely on your customers and the products or services you sell. If it’s important that employees make a fair wage or have the ability to work from anywhere in the world, put it in the mission. Make a list of everything that is critical to the stakeholders in the organization (owners, employees, customers, etc.) and home in on the elements that should serve as key reference points for the years to come.
After you have redefined the mission, you can take the next steps toward a culture transformation to bring employee and leadership behaviors into alignment.