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JEFFREY TOBIN: Losing your vision

on August 04, 2013 1:59 AM

I’ve lost my vision. Surprisingly, I can see better without it.

I once had values, but they only served to make everything complicated.

I used to be a man on a mission. But I eventually found that mission to be without purpose.

These are the voices of our employees, yours and mine. Oh, they may not be spoken, but I can say incontrovertibly that it’s true: Most employees, most of the time, know they have little to no personal connection with their work. No corporate vision, no connection to values, and certainly no sense of mission.

Vision, Mission and Values statements are supposed to be the bedrock of every organization. Owners, managers, CEOs … they all know how important these statements are. Many of them spend thousands, tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to create beautifully crafted statements about their organizations. Vision, Mission and Values statements are the GPS of moving forward … of making a difference in the world.

Stuff and nonsense.

I won’t argue against the necessity of creating them. These statements are critically important. What I’m arguing against is the very statements that are supposed to give complete clarity, direction and meaning to the organization do very little, if anything, to advance the cause.

Why? They don’t resonate with anyone.

Let’s say I’ve spent a great deal of time planning an event at my home. I want everyone to have as much clarity about their destination as I can provide. So here’s the invitation I send:

Come to a corporate fete

Friday at 18:30 hrs.

34.0851738, -118.2919007

Corporate statements of all kinds ring like this with the muffled clank of a bell, struck in the sand. What good is all of that craftsmanship if it doesn’t resonate, if it doesn’t ring? Like the invitation above, it’s so accurate as to be bereft of meaning.

Let’s try this one:

Party! Beer!

Friday night at my house!

Less information. But ever so much more full of meaning.

The solution? Work through all of the “specificity of corporate meaning” exercises you like, but once you’ve done them, distill the results all into a short, memorable statement that has real resonance with real people. “Party! Beer! Friday night at my house!” Memorable, resonant, motivating.

I could bore you to death with the corporate mumbo jumbo I’ve written throughout the years for our office products companies, but the direction they give is clear as mud. In their stead, we have a statement of purpose: “Have fun while reducing our customers’ operating costs.” That’s it. That’s what we do. I’ve long since hidden those “corporate meaning” statements in a binder way up on a dusty shelf.

Corporate vision, values and mission statements: I once had them all, but traded them in for a statement of purpose.

Your organization needs a purpose. Your employees want a purpose. You must communicate that purpose.

What is it?

My friend, you should lose your vision. I guarantee you’ll see much better without it.

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