A key part of maintaining an organization’s alignment to its mission and vision is to create a framework and processes that are consistent and intentional and in which mission and vision are at the center of all interactions. With that goal in mind, let’s take a look at a specific way an organization can keep mission and vision front and center.
One of the ways many organizations communicate about their mission and vision is through organization-wide communication, such as a newsletter, a town hall or communications from leadership. Communicating organizational priorities and status is a standard practice, but not all organizations dedicate space or time to discussing how they are serving their mission and vision. Doing so is a great way to connect the mission and vision to the actual work, but to make this effort successful, it requires the same consistency and intentionality at the cross-team and individual levels.
The objective is to tell mission-driven stories across the organization. As humans, we thrive on stories that communicate and inspire. In order to share inspiring mission-driven stories, put these strategies in place:
1. Establish Agreement on What Comprises Mission-driven Behavior
Leaders should identify what it means to act in a way that strives to fulfill the mission of the organization. What does the mission look like and feel like in its ideal state? That aspiration establishes how high the bar of mission expectations will reach and where recognition would be provided. That bar will adjust over time, from lower at the beginning, to help employees practice, to high when the organization is nearly running on all cylinders.
This definition will be the foundation from which you will fashion mission-driven stories. Leaders’ agreement on the definition will facilitate the remaining steps.
2. Gather Mission-driven Stories
Many organizations tell managers and teams to “bring stories about mission-driven (or good) things your teams are doing.” This directive is like when senior leaders tell teams to “go innovate” or “be more creative.” They’ve received their marching orders, but there’s no context — much less guidance or guardrails — about what they really mean.
Leaders need to set the parameters for the content of these stories:
- State the objective of the initiative.
- Outline reasoning, purpose and expectations.
- Point out the aspects you’d like to highlight.
- Reinforce the process by which they’ll solicit and gather stories.
It’s within this process that aligned practice, as well as keeping mission and vision at the center, can take root and become ingrained not only within the current initiative but through so many other interactions that happen on a daily basis.
One of the criteria of a mission-driven story might be cross-team collaboration. Along with having mission and vision laid out at the organizational level, having a common language across teams will reinforce what it means for the entire organization to act collectively toward its common purpose. Reinforcing how teams across functions hold the mission at the center of their work and make great things happen will solidify to the entire organization what it means to work toward the mission.
3. Work With Leaders to Gather Information and Context for the Stories
This step is the individual work that you can do with your leaders and that they can use on down the organization. It solidifies the technique and processes used to identify the potential stories and gather the context and content needed to make a good story.
Questions you might ask include:
- What was the issue or opportunity that popped up?
- What were the areas in which we were failing, or where were the gaps in fulfilling our purpose?
- Who were the main players?
- How did you investigate this issue investigated? Whom did you bring in to help?
- What communication process did you use?
- How did you bring in other teams?
- What components of our values (related to the mission and vision) were expressed through the process?
- What roadblocks did you hit, and how did you overcome them?
When the organization’s leaders ask these types of questions, managers learn what’s expected from them and will, eventually, gather that information for you. This behavior will then cascade down to the front lines of the organization until everyone is looking to recognize the core components of what it means to work in alignment with the organization’s mission. That’s what a leader wants in the first place: to connect daily practice with purpose.
As employees understand what constitutes the types of activities and events that the organization publishes or communicates, they will embark on activities that are story-worthy and offer their own ideas. A seemingly superficial task can become part of the fabric that helps build aligned processes and practices as a matter of daily work. When you and your leaders are willing to consistently and intentionally practice and coach on alignment techniques at the organizational, cross-team and individual levels, you can start the wheels turning toward transformational results.