Most businesses have a mission statement, yet the way it is communicated, applied, and understood in the cultures of organizations varies by many degrees. I recently had an experience that highlighted this point in some very vivid ways. I believe the experience offers some insights and best practices for any organization looking to align the culture and behavior of the team around the mission of the organization.
The Mission and Customer Promise are Closely Linked
Most of us understand the value of a mission statement – it’s the clear declaration of the core purpose and intent of an organization. What is not always understood is the relationship between the mission statement and the customer promise. This relationship is the essence of Internal-External Brand Alignment and the point from which everything else flows. If the mission statement provides that clear declaration of core purpose and intent, it’s easy to see how the customer promise emerges from that mission. In some organizations the mission statement and customer promise are one and the same. Other organizations will articulate them in slightly different ways based on the idea that the mission is an internal statement, whereas the customer promise is an external statement. Either way, they are closely linked and define your commitment to your customers. This commitment becomes the essence of your brand.
Recently I was engaged in some consulting work for a leading healthcare system that was exploring some of their branding options. Part of the discovery work involved visits to various hospital locations around the country and panel interviews with team members at those locations to discuss brand culture.
One of the questions I asked was a simple one. “What is your mission statement?” In some locations, the mission statement was top of mind and easily shared by the entire panel. Other locations had a more difficult time remembering the statement. The teams would look at each other, do a bit of guessing, and come up with an idea of what they thought it was.
After probing further and wandering around the location and observing the environments, a simple pattern began to emerge. No one will find this pattern surprising, but it was an interesting reminder that doing a few simple things can have a strong impact on results.
The Shorter, the Better
The formal mission statement for this healthcare organization is short, and easily understood. In locations that used the mission in this pure form, recognition trended high. In some locations the formal mission statement had been embellished to add some sense of local relevance. In nearly all of these situations where the statement had been extended, the recognition of the statement decreased substantially.
We have all heard the statement “out of sight, out of mind.” In locations that boldly and prominently displayed the mission so that all could see, the recognition was high. In locations that took a more subtle approach, the recognition decreased accordingly.
In locations with high recognition of the mission, the panels described a culture where the mission was openly and frequently referenced in team meetings, staff huddles and leadership presentations. They went on to describe their understanding of how the actions they took every day related and contributed to the fulfillment of the mission.
If the mission truly represents the primary objective of the organization, and if recognition and understanding of this objective is the first step towards success, then these three simple actions represent a leverage point that is easily accessible to any organization.
What has your experience been? How do you keep the mission of your organization alive and present for your team? Join the conversation and let us know what you have seen work.