Purpose, Mission and Vision: Creating a Compelling Future

Dr. Purushothaman
November 27, 2013


Some may say that there has been too much talk of purpose, mission and vision. I say there is not nearly enough - not enough depth of dialogue and far too little implementation of the wisdom discerned from doing the work of crafting a meaningful purpose, mission and vision.
Purpose, mission and vision, and the goals that follow, are the most elemental and essential component to any business. They provide the context inside of which a business operates. When a business, a person or a nation is devoid of these defining elements, it will function with no guiding principles, no ground on which to stand. When this is the case, the "bottom line" becomes the only motivator for operations, which leads to stagnant corporate cultures, unfulfilled employees and all too often, unethical practices and decisions.
Having a clearly defined empowering context for one's business creates what I call the "new bottom line" in business. It creates meaning, depth and a clear path toward contributing to the greater good, as well as focusing on how to improve the fiscal bottom line of the company.
Purpose, mission and vision serve to create an empowering context for the company. How do you define context? In the most basic definition, it is a container for something. It is the background that gives the foreground its distinction. I define context as "the energetic and attitudinal environment inside of which anything lives." There is a context to everything; families, schools, companies, countries. But for the most part we do not intentionally define the context. When that is the case, I call it the "default context." You end up living your life or running your business by default rather than by design! A default context is one that gets unconsciously assimilated from the predominant attitudes and energies of the culture. It is unconscious, undefined and does not set one apart from the masses, nor lead to clarity and power.
Let's look at each of these elements and begin creating an empowering context for your business, your management or sales team, or even for your life.
Purpose: I look at purpose as the most basic element of creating an empowering context, as well as something that is most simple to discern. What is the purpose of anything? Not the function of a thing, or the potential of a thing -but to understand the purpose of anything, I look at the purpose of everything in the universe, and that is to grow and expand. The Universe is in a constant state of growth and expansion. Have you ever tried to keep weeds out of your garden? You will see how quickly they grow and expand, all on their own, with no support or guidance whatsoever! It is the natural flow of energy of all living things to grow and expand. What happens when growth ceases? Immediately, stagnation and decay set in. So if it is your company or your own life, if you are not growing and expanding, you are basically beginning to die.
How does this relate to the purpose of your company? Your company needs to be focused on growth in many ways - the growth of your employees through training and development, the growth of your products and services to continually meet the needs of your customers, the growth of your reach into your market. Growth must be understood as being more than just the financial bottom line. Growth also means growing in depth of understanding, depth of ability to express your company's core values, breadth of reach of your circle of influence and in the scope of what you do. You are in business to grow and you need to operate in alignment with a deep understanding of this purpose to create long-lasting success.
As you discern your company purpose, ask yourself and your entire company this: How do we want to grow in each area of our company? When we are thriving and flourishing, where have we grown the most and in what ways? How do we feel about ourselves, our team and our customers as a result of this growth? For who are we a role model? These types of questions will guide your thinking as you explore and create your specific and exact company purpose.
Mission: The mission of your company describes what you do so that you are fulfilling your purpose. It is a short-concise statement that summarizes your values and the essence of who you are and what you provide as a company. I much prefer shorter mission statements that can be easily memorized and that create a compelling future for your company and that will create a passionate message that your customers can immediately identify with. As a trainer and coach my mission statement is, "I am a torchbearer for a vision of a world transformed, illuminating freedom, fulfillment and passion, igniting the flame of infinite possibility for the human spirit."
You can see that this mission statement uses imagery, powerful words and concepts, expressing core values and calling me into an empowering future. This is the role of mission. It calls you and your company forth into its fullest expression and communicates the essence of why you are here.
Once you have clearly stated your company mission what is the immediate next question? For most people it is something like, "Well, this is great, but WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE?!"
What a great question! Enter the role of a company vision.
Vision: The vision of one's company begins the process of creating how the company fulfills its mission. The vision is the fun work of answering the question, "When we are operating at our finest and best, serving the most satisfied customers, making the largest impact we can make, what does that look like?" Vision is the highest expression of your mission, described in actionable items. It is different from your goals in that your vision does not have specific accomplishment dates or "by when's" associated with them.
To begin, just do a brainstorming session, no editing, and no categorizing. Just let it rip and let the ideas flow. There is a tremendous amount of energy when people are freed up to imagine their highest possible future. Then, after the brainstorming is complete, begin to categorize the items based on the various areas of your business such as sales, marketing, customer service, education/training and so on. Or if you have a large company, have each team or department do their own vision, and then blend that into an overall company vision.
I strongly suggest that companies operate inside of 5 year visions. Longer than that becomes too abstract, and shorter than that doesn't allow the company to gather the traction it needs to fully dig into the actions required to create the vision. So in the next five years, what can you create? How do you want to express in your fullness? What is the best possible outcome for your company to produce in the next five years?
The pitfall that most people make when doing vision work is that most people largely overestimate what can be accomplished in one year, and yet largely underestimate what can be accomplished in five. So you want to begin with all that you will offer and provide in five years. Then begin to break that down into one-year, three-year and five-year plans. From there, you can begin creating one-year goals by quarter. When you manage your business, or your life, in this way, you are creating a new future given by your purpose, grounded in your values and driven by your mission. It is a seamlessly created empowering context that can potentially change the culture of your company.

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