A Simplified System for Complex Decision Making


Deliberate human decision making is both a complicated process and a vague concept. Often, we make decisions without cognitively thinking about the process. That is, our choices are fast, automatic, and emotional. It’s what Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, calls system one thinking. Unlike system one thinking, Kahneman explains slower, deliberate, and logical thinking as system two thinking. It’s this system two thinking that requires more cognition when making complex decisions.

When it comes to simplifying the complexity of deliberate decision-making, decision-makers can incorporate a process introduced by consumer psychologist, Ryan Hamilton, in his lecture series titled, How You Decide: The Science of Human Decision Making. Hamilton simplifies the process of human decision making as analogous to a manufacturing process.

In a simplified version of a manufacturing process, there are three parts; raw materials that serve as input, the machinery which processes and assembles the raw material, and a control mechanism that regulates the machinery within the manufacturing process.

decision making as a manufacturing process

In the manufacturing metaphor, deliberate decision making is summed up in three simple components, informational input, informational processing, and motivational control. Leaders engaged in crucial dilemmas can use the process to understand the choices they make and to make better decisions.

The Cognitive “Manufacturing” Process in Decision Making

Informational Input
In the first step of our manufacturing metaphor, we need to identify the decision we are trying to anticipate. What we want to know is the “raw” information that we want to input into our cognitive process. We also understand which options we have available to us. Additionally, we want to understand what decision rules are used to process the information, and in what context our decision options are scrutinized.

Informational Processing
Next, we want to understand what biases will play a part in our decision making process as a natural result of how our minds operate. What steps would we take to make our resolve easier by being aware of these biases and working to eliminate them from the process? Biases tend to affect our decisions, thus being aware of them can help us make logical choices and better decisions.

Motivational Control
In the final step of the “cognitive manufacturing process,” we ask what are the motivations that are likely to determine your decision making? What are some deep-rooted drivers that may influence you to make your determination? What are your ultimate goals?


In summary, to better understand complex decision making, we equate the process to that of a manufacturing process. We input raw material, which is our thoughts and the machinery that produces the final goods, our decisions, and cognitive ability to understand and eliminate our biases. Finally, the control mechanism of the machinery is our motivation or the deep-rooted drivers for making the resolution. However, there are limitations to human decision making. There exists a chasm of variances in the mental quality of our choices between people and within ourselves. Each variable along the  process must be considered carefully and weighed against our motivation and goals for the decisions we want to make.

How to Craft a Mission and Vision Statement

In a previous post titled, “Crafting Effective Company Mission Statements,” I discussed elements that make for an effective mission statement. In this post, I explain what a vision statement is, the difference between a mission and vision statement, and how to write a mission and vision statement for your organization.

As a reminder, a mission statement is a brief, yet memorable statement that communicates the organization’s reason for existing. Conversely, the vision statement is a declaration of the organization’s aspirations. In other words, the vision declares where the organization wants to be at some point in the future. Thus, the difference between the mission and vision is that the mission statement is the here and now, declaring the organization’s purpose and the vision is what the organization aspires to become at some point in the future.

Mission and vision statements make up three essential parts of a business strategy. They:

  1. Communicate the organizations purpose to stakeholders
  2. Serve as a target for strategy development
  3. Work synergistically toward measuring the success or failure of strategic goals; vision serves as a high-level leader while the mission serves as tactical measures that are specific

Mission and Vision Statements Strategy Art

Crafting an Effective Mission Statement

In this next section, I walk you through the process of crafting a compelling mission and vision statement. Keep in mind that crafting a mission and vision statement is a process that involves key stakeholders. It takes time to develop a compelling mission and vision. Four steps make up the method of developing, executing, and maintaining synchronicity with the mission, vision, and overall business strategy:

  1. The planning and process
  2. Content development of the mission and vision
  3. Communicating
  4. Monitoring and Control

Planning and Process

Planning the mission and vision statement requires that leadership includes all key stakeholders in the process of creating the mission and vision. Begin with your employees and let them drive the development of the mission and vision. Specifically, guide them in soliciting their input through the writing process. Additionally, solicit input from other key stakeholders that are impacted by your business. Key stakeholders could include, but are not limited to, community leaders, key vendors, or shareholders — if you are a publicly traded company.

Furthermore, explain how each stakeholder group or individual is responsible for their contribution to the mission and vision. The key to the planning process is to get complete buy-in from all key stakeholders because they are responsible for seeing that the mission and vision are carried through.

Content Discussion

Begin developing the content for your mission and vision by describing how your business future will look in five to ten years. Be sure to specify the best possible business future for your organization. When writing, consider both financial and nonfinancial goals.

In their book, The Mission Primer: Four Steps to an Effective Mission Statement (add amazon link) authors Richard and David O’Hallaron indicate that the best mission statements give attention to six areas. These areas are:

  • What “want-satisfying” service or commodity do we produce and continuously work to improve?
  • How do we increase the wealth or quality of life or society?
  • How do we provide opportunities for the productive employment of people?
  • How are we creating a high-quality and meaningful work experience for employees?
  • How do we live up to the obligation to provide fair and just wages?
  • How do we fulfill the obligation to provide a fair and justified return on capital?

The key to writing mission statements, or any goal, is to use the present tense. Write as though your organization already accomplished what you are describing. When you write in the future tense, you establish a mindset that your organization is always trying to achieve the mission. Writing in the present tense establishes a mindset and habit that your mission is to be accomplished now and not at some future point. It is the job of the vision statement to project your organizations desired future outcome.

Communication Discussion

Communicating the mission and vision process comes down to exceptional leadership. Leadership within the organization must commit to helping employees and stakeholders identify with the mission and vision, ensuring that all parties understand, follow, and communicate them both internally and externally.

Internal communication includes communicating up and down the chain of command. That is, front-line employees and middle management must embrace a culture of communicating to leadership the issues that arise with production and service that does not fall within the scope of the mission and vision. Employees must also take ownership for implementing processes that promote the mission and vision, communicating potential incompatibilities with the process and mission to senior management and leadership.

Additionally, leadership, management, and employees are responsible for communicating the mission and vision across organizational divisions as well as to key stakeholders outside of the organization, such as community leaders. Any breakdown in the process of effective communication is a potential for straying from the organization’s mission and vision, thus moving the organization away from its original purpose or reason why they are in business.

Monitoring Discussion

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of the monitoring process allows for leadership to monitor the relevance of the mission and vision statement. Mission KPIs allow for tracking the progress of the mission toward organizational goals. If goals do not align with the mission and vision, adjustments may need to be made to the mission and vision to stay on course in reaching corporate goals. Look at KPIs as a thermostat for regulating temperature. If the climate gets too hot, adjustments are made to cool things down. The opposite is exact for things that cool down.

Mission and vision statements are only as good as the leadership’s commitment to implementing, monitoring, and engaging them. If a leader is not committed to involving the organization’s stakeholders in implementing and living the mission and vision, then creating them is pointless.

Mission Statement Examples

No discussion about mission statements is complete without a few good examples to illustrate the concept. Below are several mission statements from top organizations that follow their missions. We know they support their mission statements because their organizations are financially successful as well as great places to work. Thus they embrace an inclusive working culture amongst their employees.

Southwest Airlines

“Southwest is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”


“It’s our mission to keep human connection at the heart of commerce. That’s why we built a place where creativity lives and thrives because it’s powered by people. We help our community of sellers turn their ideas into successful businesses. Our platform connects them with millions of buyers looking for an alternative—something special with a human touch, for those moments in life that deserve imagination.”


“Our mission is: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions. To create value and make a difference.”

Kaiser Permanente

“Kaiser Permanente exists to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve.”


“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Developing the mission and vision statement takes time, commitment, and inclusion by all key stakeholders inside and outside of the organization. The mission is your organization’s reason why they exist. In my final thoughts, I would like to share a video on How to Write A Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck. You will learn how most companies approach writing mission statements and how not to follow in their footsteps, but following a path toward writing an effective, meaningful mission statement.


Crafting Effective Company Mission Statements

What is a Company Mission Statement?

Organizations with a clear strategic focus have written mission and vision statements. A company mission statement communicates — most often in writing — the firm’s reason for existing; it defines the values and governing principles of your organization. The mission statement explains how the organization aims to serve its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, shareholders, and community.

Organizations that have clearly communicated mission and value statements that align with their strategy, goals, and objectives outperform companies that do not have them. Not all organizations have a mission statement. Some have informal mission statements, that is, they are not written for all to see. Even with a casual mission statement, these organizations still follow and behave in a manner consistent with their purpose providing a competitive edge over organizations without mission and value statements.

Four key points of a mission statement include:

  1. They describe the organization’s purpose or reason why they exist
  2. Focuses on the present
  3. Part of and critical to the strategic and marketing plan
  4. Corporate decisions must be in harmony with the mission statement

Why Should A Company Have A Mission Statement?

Companies that have a formal written mission statement achieve at minimum three main purposes:

  1. Inform stakeholders of the reason for the company’s existence.
  2. Dispute resolution for the company’s future direction.
  3. To serve as inspiration for employees and management within the company.

Informing Stakeholders

The written mission statement provides transparency to a firm’s stakeholders, customers, investors, employees, and business partners about their goals and objectives and the reason the company exists as well as what it is trying to achieve. If all stakeholders have an understanding of why a company exists and their specific goals, they can work together to help the organization meet their mission.

Dispute Resolution

Imagine a firm without a mission, all sorts of issues may arise that could lead the company in a direction that it did not want to venture toward. As an example, take a look at Google’s mission statement:

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

In 2012, Google purchased the mobile phone handset giant Motorola but later sold the company in 2014 to Lenovo. The acquisition did not necessarily fit their mission but served a strategic purpose, and they were expected to sell the company, which they did in 2014. Assuming that a manager within Google wanted to continue pursuing the handset market, Google could say that the products do not fit with our core mission and that they should focus on what’s close to their purpose, thus avoiding any potential dispute with internal teams, shareholders, and customers.

Employee Inspiration

Good corporate missions provide employees with a purpose to feel good about what they are doing for their organization as well as for the world. Most employees like to feel that they are part of something more significant, something that has a positive impact on the planet. A good mission statement provides this type of motivation and inspiration for employees and managers of the organization. As an example, Twitter’s mission statement is short, simple, and inspirational:

“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

Characteristics That Make for a Good Mission Statement

Not all mission statements are reasonable statements. That is, they do not inspire, nor do they focus on the customer or some social value. Four characteristics that make for a good mission statement:

  1. Unique and emphasize the creation of a customer or social value.
  2. Stay focused on solving customer needs or problems.
  3. Employees, know, understand, and practice the mission statement.
  4. Inspiring, brief, and memorable.

Customer or Social Value and Unique

Effective missions are unique to the business and emphasize the creation of some customer or social value. Examples include improving the lives of people’s health or improving the quality of their lives. Mission statements should stay clear of communicating “being the best” at something or just making money. Focus on the positive impacts the business makes.

Solving Customer Needs or Problems

Poor mission statements often fail to address customer needs or problems. They become myopic and focus on their product or service resulting in product-focused rather than people focused missions. A compelling mission focuses on “selling” the problem they solve and not the product they sell. Organizations that fail to address or focus on customer needs and problems may find themselves becoming obsolete as new technologies and trends emerge in their industry.

Effective Missions are Lived and Practiced

A mission is only useful if it is lived and practiced by the company. Regardless of employee size, a good test in determining if the mission statement is meaningful is if regular employees can explain the company mission statement and use it to guide their daily work and decisions. A great way to incorporate the mission statement and get employees to learn it is to have it posted throughout the organization as well as provide employees with a mission statement card that they can carry around as a reminder of their overall mission and goals.

Inspiring, Brief, and Memorable

Good mission statements should be brief, inspiring, and memorable. Being succinct allows employees and managers to remember and use them all the time quickly. Some examples of inspiring, memorable, and brief mission statements include:


“Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”


To build the Web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.

Whole Foods:

Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people – customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general – and the planet.


To enable economic growth through infrastructure and energy development, and to provide solutions that support communities and protect the planet.


Final thoughts: Without a clearly communicated mission statement a business does not have a goal or objective. Mission and vision statements are like the road maps for a journey, you may or may not reach your destination without them. Planning and preparing ensure that you have a clear path to your final destination. The mission statement is a firm’s roadmap.



Developing the Optimal Value Proposition that Drives Market Success

For a business to achieve market success, it must create superior value for their customers, collaborators, and the organization. Peter Drucker, the famed management theorist, stated that the purpose of business is to create a customer and that business enterprise has only two functions: marketing and innovation. Thus, the responsibility of creating value and winning customers falls on the shoulders of marketing.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchange offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. 

Since market success, at the strategic level, is a result of creating superior value for customers, doing so is carried-out through the value proposition, which simply defines the value of a brand offering for a target market. Marketers seeking to design relevant value propositions for their brands must first understand the value exchange — value-based relationships — and define the relationships between the customers, collaborators, company, and competitors in any given market.

As an example, consider the relationship a manufacturer has with a retailer and the relationship the retailer has with the target customer. The retailer (a collaborator) partners with the manufacturer (the company) to deliver products (a value) to the target customer. The customer receives value from the manufacturer by way of the product and value from the retailer by way of delivery and service of the product. Both the manufacturer and retailer receive value from the customer through the revenue generated by the customer. Additionally, the retailer receives value from the manufacturer through varied trade promotions granted by the manufacturer. The manufacturer receives value from the retailer through the services performed by the retailer on behalf of the manufacturer, i.e. product advertising and promotions (See diagram below).

Value Proposition value chain strategic marketing diagram

The symbiotic relationship among the company, collaborators, and customers reflects only the company side of the value exchange. Marketers need to be aware of competitors who often work with the same collaborators and target the same customers. Both the competitors and company’s value exchange are balanced. Thus, to be successful, marketers must craft optimal value propositions —value that is balanced — for customers, collaborators, and the company.

Before a balanced value proposition is created, the marketer must evaluate the market potential of an offering by answering three critical questions:

  • Does the offering create superior value for target customers relative to the competitive offerings? In other words, are the products and services offered perceived to be superior to that of the competition?
  • Does the offering create superior value for the company’s collaborators relative to what the competition is offering? Is the manufacturer (the company) providing a better overall value to the retailers in the way of incentives or bonuses than the competition?
  • Does the offering create superior value for the company relative to the other options the company must generate in order to pursue this offering? Does the value the company receives outweigh the costs to deliver the product or service?

In a recent survey on MarketingCharts.com, 87% of global brand managers and CMOs agreed that an aspect of their overall brand strategy is to include brand story and value propositions as part of their strategies. Yet, less than half (46%) claimed to have a deep understanding of their audience personas, the very thing that helps marketers identify customer values that lead to the creation of effective value propositions.

To truly develop the optimum value proposition, marketers need to fully understand their target audience; personas, then be able to answer the three critical questions (above) surrounding an offering. If the company’s offerings create superior value for the customer, collaborator, and company relative to the competitors — and to other options, the company must generate in order to provide the offering — then the company is positioned to achieve market superiority.


Adkins, Amy (2016, March 31), Biggest Driver of B2B Success: Meaningful Customer Impact. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com. Accessed April 7, 2017.

“Definition of Marketing.” American Marketing Association. N.p., July 2013. Web. 8 Apr. 2017. Retrieved from http://www.ama.org. Accessed April 7, 2017.

MarketingCharts staff (2017, March 23). Which Components Are Essential to Marketers’ Brand Strategies? Retrieved from http://www.marketingcharts.com. Accessed April 8, 2017.

Trout, Jack (2006, July 3). Peter Drucker on Marketing. Retrieved from http://www.Forbes.com. Accessed April 9, 2017.

Chernev, A. Strategic Marketing Management. Chicago, IL. Cerrebellum Press; 2014

Three-Step Writing Process for Business Communications

Effective business writing is important to a company because it helps create efficient communication that leads to increased productivity, faster problem solving, stronger decision-making, and increased profits. It also helps boost the organization’s credibility.

To some professionals, writing is a daunting task. So much so, that they have a fear of penning ink on paper and often miss deadlines or poorly communicating company or marketing information. This ends up wasting company resources such as time and money. The truth is, writing, like any other skill, takes practice to master.

Business writing skills are an important – hard – skill-set for marketer’s to master. As part of the job, a marketing professional is often required to write advertising copy, press releases, sales copy, internal reports, social media postings, blog posts, and a lot more content.

The three-step writing process helps business writers, like marketing professionals, create effective messages in any medium. It helps them communicate their message effectively while meeting their target audiences needs. The three-step process also ensures writers make the best use of their time and their audiences time. As the writer gets more practice with the three-step writing process, it becomes easier to write and writing becomes more automatic.

Below are the steps to the three-step writing process (For a visual representation, see the Three-Step Writing Process chart below.).

Three-Step Writing Process

  1. Plan
  2. Write
  3. Complete


Three-Step Writing Process Details

1. Planning

Analyze the Situation
Define the reason or purpose for writing and develop an audience profile.

Gather Information
Determine the needs of the audience and gather information required to satisfy those needs.

Select the Right Delivery Vehicle
Determine the best medium (delivery vehicle) for communicating the message.

Organize the Information
Define the main communication idea and select a direct or an indirect approach. Outline the content to be communicated.

2. Write

Adapt to the Audience

Connect with your audience by being sensitive to their needs and using a “you” attitude. (See explanation of the “you” attitude below.)

Build a strong relationship with the audience by establishing credibility and projecting your company’s brand image. Use a conversational tone, plain English, and an appropriate voice to deliver the message.

Compose the Message
Choose strong words that create effective sentences and coherent paragraphs.

3. Complete

Revise the Message
Evaluate the content and review it for readability. If required, edit the content and rewrite for conciseness and clarity.

Produce the Message
Use effective design elements for a clean and professional layout.

Proofread the Message
Review the communication piece for errors in the layout. Check the spelling and mechanics as well.

Distribute the Message

Deliver the message using the chosen communication vehicle. Make sure that all documents and files relevant to the communication item are successfully distributed.

While the process of writing may seem challenging at first, practicing often and implementing the three-step writing process will help improve writing skills. The more a business professional writes and uses the three-step process, the more automatic their writing becomes.


The "You" Attitude

The “you” attitude is an audience-centered approach to communicating that involves understanding and respecting your audience and making every effort to get your message across in a way that is meaningful to them.

The “you” attitude is in contrast to messages that are in stark contrast to messages that are about “me.” The goal is to learn as much as possible about your audience. Learn things such as their biases, education, age, status, style, as well as personal and professional concerns. Using this informant you are able to satisfy their need through communication.

Writing SMART Goals for Marketing

Writing SMART Goals

This post on SMART goals serves as a refresher tutorial on the SMART goal writing process. It also serves as a reference for my other articles that refer to a goal writing process. The following article first appeared on my Marketing Binder website and is specific to writing SMART Marketing goals. However, the concept and principles of writing SMART goals are the same for any discipline, such as writing SMART goals for students, education, work, and other business functions and processes.

Marketing Goals and the S.M.A.R.T. Acronym

Without realistic, time-bound goals, it becomes a challenge to achieve your desired results, regardless of your discipline. Imagine navigating a ship in the ocean without a navigational system; you’re bound to wander aimlessly and eventually run out of resources. The same can be said if you try to achieve results – at work, school, or in your personal life – without a plan. Thus, developing sound marketing goals is essential to managing the performance of your marketing initiatives.

When setting goals, it is best to use the SMART goal writing process. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. refers to:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-focused
  • Time-bound

smart marketing goals graphic chart - allen stafford

The key to setting and writing goals is the more specific and realistic you are about your goals, the better you can manage the goals and their outcomes.

However, before I dive into the meaning of each SMART goal component, I want to share a few examples of SMART marketing goals. You can substitute any discipline into the following examples.

Example Marketing Goals (Objectives)

The following marketing goals are similar to what you may find in a typical marketing plan:

  • to increase sales of (specific) product/brand X by 15% over the next 18 months
  • to increase market share for product/brand X by 7 percent (in a specific region) over the next 12 months
  • to generate 200 new leads via the website each month
  • to increase distribution of product X (in a specific region/territory) from 15% to 30% within 12 months

Notice that the above marketing objectives already follow the SMART goals format; they are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.

SIDE BAR: Typical Marketing Objectives

Take note that typical marketing objectives may refer to the following types of sales and marketing initiatives (this is just a small list):

  • sales
  • market share
  • distribution penetration
  • new product launches
  • lead generation
  • social media followers

How to Apply Each Letter of the SMART Goal

In the following copy, I will explain what the different parts of the SMART goal mean, provide you an example in terms of writing SMART marketing goals, and provide an explanation. Again, remember that you can use the SMART goal process for any goal setting initiative, such as personal, for work, education, or as a student.


A marketing goal should define what you are going to do. The Specific in the S.M.A.R.T. model answers the What, Why, and How of the goal.


The automotive parts division will increase sales of car batteries by 10% over the next 12 months using cross-selling, up-selling, and direct marketing strategies so that it can increase revenue to hire a new counter salesperson.


  1. What = Automotive parts division will increase sales of car batteries by 10%.
  2. How = By using cross-selling, up-selling, and direct marketing strategies.
  3. Why = To increase revenue to hire a new employee; a counter sales person.


There should be concrete evidence that you have accomplished your marketing goal or objective. Typically, the entire goal statement is a measurement for the project, however, there are smaller measurements built into your objective.


The automotive parts division will increase sales of car batteries by 10% over the next 12 months using cross-selling, up-selling, and direct marketing strategies so that it can increase revenue to hire a new counter salesperson.


The measurable metric is whether the parts department increased sales by 10% within the 12 month period.


Marketing goals should be achievable. The goal should challenge you, yet it should be defined well enough so that it can be achieved. For the goal to be achievable, you must have the proper resources, such as skills, personnel, and finances.

Almost all realistic goals can are achievable when you plan each step and establish a timeline. By following steps, you can achieve marketing goals that seemed impossible. On the other hand, if you establish impossible goals, you may never reach them.


The automotive parts division will increase sales of car batteries by 10% over the next 12 months using cross-selling, up-selling, and direct marketing strategies so that it can increase revenue to hire a new counter salesperson.


To achieve this marketing objective, you must have a skill-set in selling and direct marketing techniques. Without these skills, you will not be able to successfully achieve these goals.


Marketing goals should measure outcomes, not activities. Hence, goals are result-focused.


The automotive parts division will increase sales of car batteries by 10% over the next 12 months using cross-selling, up-selling, and direct marketing strategies so that it can increase revenue to hire a new counter salesperson.


The result of this marketing goal is the ability to hire a new counter sales person and to increase revenue over the past years performance.


The marketing goal should be linked to a time-frame that creates a practical sense of urgency.


The automotive parts division will increase sales of car batteries by 10% over the next 12 months using cross-selling, up-selling, and direct marketing strategies so that it can increase revenue to hire a new counter salesperson.


The next 12  months provides a time-bound deadline. The marketing goal can still be more specific by offering a very specific end date.

Writing goals for any is important your success. Specifically, writing marketing goals is critical to the success of any business navigating the marketing environment. Using the SMART. goal methodology can help ensure that goals are realistic and achievable in a timely manner These lead to a focused, intentional, and methodically approach toward reaching either personal, academic, or business success.