Mission, vision, values: who needs them?
Another Squidoo lens by Paul Hassing.
I'm a business communications copywriter.
Last quarter, two clients asked me to optimise their mission, vision and values (MVV) statements.
Here's what I learned from the process.
The importance of perfection
Every communication builds or erodes an organisation's brand. Therefore, every communication must be perfect.
Perfect in this context means clear, concise, correct and effective.
Clear, concise and correct are relatively easy.
Effective is harder, as it depends on the communication's audience/s.
Who we're speaking to
I believe the audiences (in order of importance) for an MVV communication are:
B. Staff (current & future)
C. Not for profit
C. Industry bodies
Defining multiple audiences is one thing. Connecting with all of them is much harder.
The greater the audience diversity, the more generic the language must be (so we don't offend).
Yet in offending no-one, we may touch no-one, defeating our purpose.
The good news is that a relevant, truthful message, expressed in clear, concise and correct language, has very broad appeal.
If you have the message, we just need the language.
A defining moment
To judge MVV objectively, we must define them. While my research produced many varied definitions, there were common themes.
My favourite (and happily shortest) definition was the University of Southern Queensland's:
Mission: What the organisation exists to do.
Vision: What the organisation is aspiring to become.
Values: The philosophy of the organisation which shapes its approach to its task.
If you agree with this definition, you should also agree that mission (which deals with the present) should precede vision (which deals with the future).
Some organisations reverse these, so I'm keen to nail that point.
Mission: To give elderly people opportunities to enjoy life fully.
Vision: To set the global standard in elderly support.
Values: Enterprise. Originality. Sustainability. Inclusion. Honesty.
Use the fewest, shortest words for maximum clarity and concision.
Use active language and lean, clean present infinitive tense.
Express values as nouns, which sound stronger than adjectives in this case.
Don’t repeat values in the mission or vision.
Don’t use ‘aim’. Like ‘committed to’, it sounds wishy washy. Rather, say what you are doing and will do.
Order the values logically. If you were explaining them at a BBQ you could say: ‘In doing enterprising things, we often create or adopt new ways. Our results are viable and lasting. We include everyone and we’re completely trustworthy’.
The wrong reason to have MVV statements is because everyone else does.
The right reason is to inspire the best reactions from all audiences.
In other words, if we get the MVV right, your:
Workers will know where they’re going, love what they’re doing, make good decisions and strive to achieve brilliant successes.
Customers will hear about you, be attracted to your services and benefit enormously from them.
Backers will delight in their association with you and give you their all.
Watchers will report, relate and recommend you around the world due to the high quality of your work.
Mission statements are:
Mere eyewash. Not worth the paper they're printed on.
- The Feisty Empire
Paul Hassing's high-end blogging, copywriting, editing and proofreading services website.