Strategy category explores high level tools that help give business leaders and decision makers the knowledge to make informed and quality decisions for their companies.
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, 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.
We can sum up deliberate decision making, in the manufacturing metaphor, 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
In the first step of our manufacturing metaphor, we need to identify the decision we are trying to anticipate. We want to know 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 how our decision options are scrutinized.
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.
In the final step of the “cognitive manufacturing process,” we ask what the motivations that are likely to determine your decision making are? 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 a manufacturing process. We input raw material, thoughts, and machinery that produces the final goods, decisions, and cognitive ability to understand and eliminate our biases. Finally, the machinery’s control mechanism is our motivation or deep-rooted drivers for resolving. 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.
In a previous post titled, “How to Write a Better Company Mission Statement,” 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 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. The vision is what the organization aspires to become in the future.
Mission and vision statements make up three essential parts of a business strategy:
- Communicate the organization’s purpose to stakeholders.
- Serve as a target for strategy development.
- Work synergistically toward measuring strategic goals’ success or failure; vision serves as a high-level leader while the mission serves as specific tactical measures.
Crafting an Effective Mission Statement
In this next section, I walk you through crafting a compelling mission and vision statement. Keep in mind that composing 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:
- The planning and process
- Content development of the mission and vision
- Monitoring and Control
Planning and Process
Planning the mission and vision statement requires that leadership includes all key stakeholders to create 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, request information 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.
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 non-financial goals.
In their book, The Mission Primer: Four Steps to an Effective Mission Statement, 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 shows an attitude and habit that your mission will be accomplished now and not at some future point. It is the job of the vision statement to project your organization’s desired future outcome.
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 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 of 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 and 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.
Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of the monitoring process, allows leadership to monitor the mission and vision statement’s relevance. 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 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 and great places to work. Thus they embrace an inclusive working culture amongst their employees.
“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 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 critical stakeholders inside and outside the organization. The mission is your organization’s reason why they exist. I want to share a video on How to Write A Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck in my final thoughts. You will learn how most companies approach writing mission statements and how not to follow in their footsteps, but following a path toward writing a significant, meaningful mission statement.
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 your organization’s values and governing principles. The mission statement explains how the organization aims to serve its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, shareholders, and the community.
Organizations with a 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 simple 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.
The Four key points of a mission statement include:
- They describe the organization’s purpose or reason why they exist.
- Focuses on the present.
- Part of and critical to the strategic and marketing plan.
- 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 primary purposes:
- Inform stakeholders of the reason for the company’s existence.
- Dispute resolution for the company’s future direction.
- To serve as inspiration for employees and management within the company.
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 and what it is trying to achieve. If all stakeholders understand why a company exists and their specific goals, they can work together to help the organization meet its mission.
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 it in 2014 to Lenovo. The acquisition did not necessarily fit Google’s mission but served a strategic purpose, with the notion they would sell the company, which they did in 2014.
Let’s assume that a manager within Google wanted to continue pursuing the handset market. Google executives could say that the products do not fit with their core mission and focus on what’s close to their purpose, thus avoiding any potential dispute with internal teams, shareholders, and customers.
Good corporate missions provide employees with a purpose to feel good about what they are doing for their organization and the world. Most employees like to think that they are part of something more significant, something that positively impacts 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. They do not inspire, nor do they focus on the customer or some social value. Four characteristics that make for a good mission statement are:
- Unique and emphasize the creation of a customer or social value.
- Stay focused on solving customer needs or problems.
- Employees know, understand, and practice the mission statement.
- 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
Weak 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 challenges may become obsolete as new technologies and trends emerge.
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 and 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, unforgettable, 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.”
“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.”
Without a communicated mission statement, a business does not have a clear goal or objective. Mission statements are like road maps for a journey; without a plan, you may have a tough time reaching your destination, if at all. Planning and preparing ensure that you have a clear path to your final destination. The mission statement is a firm’s roadmap.
The Purpose of a Business is to Create Value
For a business to achieve market success, it must create superior value for its 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.
The Value Proposition Relationships
Since market success, at the strategic level, results from creating superior value for customers, it is the function of the value proposition to define 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.
For 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 the retailer’s value through the product’s delivery and service. Both the manufacturer and retailer receive value from the customer through the revenue generated by the customer. Additionally, the retailer gets value from the manufacturer through varied trade promotions granted by the manufacturer. The manufacturer receives the retailer’s benefit through the retailer’s services on behalf of the manufacturer, i.e., product advertising and promotions (See diagram below).
The Optimal Value Proposition Critical Questions
The company, collaborators, and customers’ symbiotic relationship reflect 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 the company’s value exchange are balanced. Thus, to be successful, marketers must craft the optimal value proposition —balanced value — for customers, collaborators, and the company.
Before creating a balanced value proposition, 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 excellent value for the company’s collaborators relative to what the competition is offering? Is the manufacturer providing a better overall value to the retailers?
- Does the offering create superior value for the company relative to the other options the company must generate to pursue this offering? Does the benefit the company receives outweigh the costs to deliver the product or service?
In a survey on MarketingCharts.com, 87% of global brand managers and CMOs agreed that an aspect of their overall brand strategy is to include a brand story and value propositions. Less than half (46%) claimed to have a deep understanding of their audience personas, helping marketers identify customer values that lead to compelling value propositions.
To truly develop the optimal value proposition, marketers need to fully understand their target audience and customer personas. Then, they need to 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 other options, the company must generate to provide the offering — then the company is positioned to achieve market superiority.
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Chernev, A. Strategic Marketing Management. Chicago, IL. Cerrebellum Press; 2014