How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
Vision & Mission: Breaking the joojoo
Manosh Sengupta, General Manager – Marketing Communications, IDEA Cellular Limited
‘The role of a business organization is not merely to generate profits but to be an instrument that drives social welfare and change. Its purpose is much larger than the money it generates. Yes, of course, monetary profits play an important part towards fulfilling the social welfare objective but it remains a driver and not the purpose.’ NicMan*
What I’m about to discuss in this article is bound to provoke reactions for three reasons –
a) My iconoclast approach towards a subject, which has been articulated by names that carry a lot of weight;
b) That my approach is too simplistic for such a complex subject;
c) The examples I cite are not profound enough for such a serious issue.
I plead guilty to all. I am in no way comparable to the great minds that have authored seminal work in this field. All I attempt is to relate such complex issues at a personal level, so as to go beyond textbook definitions and reach my own understanding. As an individual, it is important for me to hear others and reach my conclusions. The process consists of relating the concept to my personal sphere, beyond the context of business or that particular subject. This often leads to a re-definition. Besides, the purpose of this paper is to stir up a debate. Let others contradict me. At least we’ll all get a different point of view.
In my 20-odd years of professional life, I have been involved in the crafting of a few Vision & Mission statements. Either, as an Advertising Executive or, as a Company Executive. Some, even as an outsider, helping out a friend or an acquaintance. Wherever possible, I made it a point to apply the same concept. If nothing else, the few people who heard me, agreed with my approach. Hence, over the years, I felt there maybe merit in sharing these thoughts across a larger base. The endeavor is to simplify a process, which seems so complex and make it relatable.
It all started sometime in the early 90s, when I received a phone call from one of my clients in Bangalore.
“Please come over for a brief right now”. The urgent task was to craft out a Vision & Mission statement for my client’s organization. He was planning a trip abroad and “such things normally help to create a better impression about the company”. So, not having any experience in such matters, Mr. Client decided that I, his man for all seasons, should be able to crack this one. After all, it is the Agency’s job to be creative?!
I tried to explain that while the Agency can sharpen the expression, the basic directions or thoughts had to come from within the organization. More importantly, this was a far more complex process than just two guys sitting down and drafting a statement, which had great ornamental value but little relevance to the business. All my endeavors were met by “… arre, kuch kar de yaar. After all, the agency is supposed to know the client as well as anyone else.”
In the experiences I have had relating to this subject, one common thread was how this subject puts everyone into a spin. We call important conferences, spend sleepless nights, laboring over the entire process, and the end result is a convoluted paragraph, which nobody understands or relates to.
Hence, the phone call from my ex-client was, in a way, the starting point of my current paper – how to create a Vision & Mission statement. I have, in my own way, found an effective method of approaching the task. It has helped the few who chose to hear me out. I hope it will also help those who read this.
First. Forget the jargons – Corporation, Business, Vision, Mission, et al.
Second. Make this discussion relate to you on a personal level.
So, how does it work? Let’s start from an obtuse point.
We are essentially made of three elements – the soul or heart, the mind or brain and off-course, the body. Each has a distinct role in our lives. The trinity combines to give our lives a meaning and action.
The heart is the compass. It guides, giving new direction. Its power lies in the fact that it never lies. It speaks to you and tells you what it desires – sometimes not even palatable or socially acceptable. You may wish to subdue that inner voice but that’s that same as silencing your soul.
The mind is the steering wheel. Meant to chart out the maneuvers. It’s a crafty fella. It strategizes, it plans, it plots - tells you how to approach your goal.
And finally, the body. The tools of tactics. The arms and limbs through which we carry out the step-by-step process. Timing, tonality, etc.
Now let’s connect these thoughts to our subject matter.
Oxford Dictionary - Ability to see; foresight; something seen in the imagination or dream; (Also defined as a short, succinct and inspiring statement of what the organization intends to become at some point in the future, often stated in competitive terms).
One of the most common Vision statements I’ve come across is ‘to be the most profitable company’ or ‘to be the #1 in the category’. Fine ambition but sorry to say, lacks ‘vision’. These are at best business objectives, definitely not a Corporate Vision. One can make money anywhere, through any activity. However, the fact that you have chosen a specific field to operate in should be the guiding factor for your vision. The 1st few points to introspect on are:
· Why am I in this field? What purpose do I serve by operating within this category?
· What are my value systems, which will enable me to justify my presence in this field?
· Is it something that others have not yet identified? Or, if they have, how can I be different?
It is quite possible that others may share your Vision. That is not an issue. What is critical is how you can be better. And that’s where the Mission comes in. But, let me address this a bit down the line.
Coming back to Vision, what I’ve stated is a simplistic approach. The purpose here is not to set up a manual to arrive at Visions & Missions but to provide a conceptual perspective on how to approach such tasks.
When I put this in the context of my personal life, the big question is how do we decide on major issues concerning ourselves. Inevitably, it is our heart that tells us what should be our destination.
‘Listen to you heart’ is an oft-repeated advice. It’s clichéd but still relevant. When we take stock of our life’s deeds, the ones that give us the maximum sense of achievement are not where we’ve gained maximum success, but where we’ve followed our inner voice. Life is a continuous tussle between what we ought to do and what we wish. Our brain – the rational element -- guides the former. The latter – what we wish – is from the heart. The heart lever lies. If you choose your destination guided by it, you have chosen to follow your dreams.
In the context of a Vision & Mission, let the former be determined not by business imperatives, but the reason WHY you are in a particular field. For instance, ‘to be the most profitable company’ or ‘achieving the highest market share’ cannot be a vision statement. These are business goals, but not a Corporate Vision. You have to be profitable (the more the better). You have to have a sizeable market share (the higher the better) but that is true of any business enterprise. It does not capture the dream / reason why you have chosen a certain category – mobile service or detergents, et al.
When you decide to be in a specific category, there is a larger role that is being defined for you. For e.g. - the role of a mobile service is to conquer time & space, so that mankind is never isolated. Add to this the value, which you or your organization can bring to the field – that becomes your Vision.
While crafting the identity of the brand, where I currently work, I had done extensive research on Vision & Mission statements of various organizations. Allow me to share some of them, which were of immense value to me, while carrying out my task. What I reproduce here are the summarized versions of the full statement:
Nokia: less wire MORE LIFE
3M: forever new
Intel: Take risks. Have fun. Produce results.
Disney: make people happy
These are all well-known, successful, global organizations. All led by a simple dream, to change society, the world. None of these statements have any reference to profits or market share. Yet, these organizations are some of the most successful enterprises. What is obvious, all these Vision statements are from the heart.
The second point to note is that if you study the business practice of any of these companies, they all live up to their Vision statements.
My favorite is Intel –‘ Take risks. Have fun. Produce results.’ In one, crisp expression, they have managed to convey the entire value chain and philosophy of the organization. Intel is a pioneer in the IT sector. Their purpose of existence is to ‘create’, to ‘discover’. In other words ‘take risks’. Yet it does so in a manner that is not intimidating. It urges you to have fun. This one is a gem, based on deep human understanding. If one is scared and unhappy, there is no way that this person is going to push the envelope. Typically, he will play it safe. While there may be safety in such situations, it cannot be called fun. Since centuries, fun has always been associated with risk. The brave enjoy the adventure, the unknown. The not-so-brave will never.
And finally, ‘Produce results’. Accountability. It sums up the philosophy so well.
I also like the Disney Vision. It’s so simple and honest – ‘make people happy’. How can you get more basic than this? Just beautiful.
conclude this chapter, Vision is not about proclaiming your business objectives. It’s about defining your role in society. This short parable is a wonderful example:
Once upon a time, there was a traveller who undertook a long journey from his village to another. As the destination was a full day’s walk, he started early.
As he stepped out of his house, the traveller noticed a man sitting by the roadside and furiously pounding stones with his hammer. Intrigued, the traveller asked the worker what he was up to. The reply was, ‘Can’t you see,
I am breaking stones.’
Midway through his journey, having stopped for lunch, the traveller noticed another man doing the same work. To kill time, he struck a conversation with this worker and asked him what he was doing. The reply,
‘Am shaping these rocks.’
At the end of day, as he was about to reach his destination the traveller came across a third man doing exactly the same work. Once again, he went up and asked the same question to this man. This time the response was,
‘I am building a temple.’
Mission: a task that a person or group is sent to perform
(Also defined as a short statement of goals and priorities)
Recently, I heard of a CEO who had made a public announcement that to have a Vision, one must first have a Mission.
The dictionary defines the word ‘mission’ as ‘a task that a person or group is sent to perform’. If we re-visit the CEO’s statement, then what he’s suggesting is that we must first identify our tasks and then find a goal to achieve. Scary. Coming from a CEO.
Presumably this gentleman’s confusion stems from the sequencing of the alphabets, where ‘M’ comes before ‘V’ – hence our assumption that Mission is followed by Vision. A typical case of how most of us indulge without understanding. It is a checklist, which needs to be ticked off.
I recall a lovely saying, ‘to a sailor without any destination, it does not matter which way the wind blows’. Having identified the goal, the next step is to work out the tasks that lead us to this point. And these tasks are what will be known as Mission -- tasks which specify the pillars through which the foundations of a Vision are constructed. We do this every day in our lives. Whether to decide on a movie, which girl to seduce or a family holiday. To fulfill a dream, we all need to carry out tasks. This has nothing to do with a business environment. It’s an everyday fact of life.
The critical point here is that how to identify the tasks.
And this is where the Mind plays its role. The Strategist, who plots and schemes, telling us how to make our moves. The Mind creates all possible alternative scenarios, weighing each option strategically. There is no single solution. Any destination will have multiple routes; the aim is to select one that fits in with the available resources and capabilities. Strategy, after all, is all about deciding what to give up. When faced with options, we can select only one. At this point, our brain takes over and takes us through a process of evaluation, weighing the pros and cons, and finally, allowing us to take a decision based on rational inputs.
There are three key factors that define the parameters of a Mission:
A) Set the boundaries within which to operate. This helps in focusing the strategy.
B) Define the parameters against which to measure success. This is key to any progress.
C) Set the ethical standards, within which to operate. Can become controversial, as my personal belief is that ethics is subject to context, culture and generation.
To understand this better, let’s try this simple exercise. If my Vision as a family man is to ensure the welfare of my family, I shall achieve this through defining my Missions as:
a. Setting the boundaries within which to operate. E.g.-
· Welfare of my family is defined by ensuring their safety, security, protection & happiness.
b. Define the parameters against which to measure success. E.g. –
· Ensure financial security till the age of 25 for my kids and 20 years after my retirement for my spouse
· Ensure my kids education in premier institutes
· Ensure two family holidays every year
· Inculcate a sense of social responsibility by involving in community projects
· Concentrate on my career to ensure that I can afford all of the above
· Etc. etc.
c. Set the ethical standards, within which to operate. E.g. –
· Shall not resort to any form of gratification that might compromise my family.
· Shall always treat my accomplices with respect, knowing that they too carry a similar dream, as I.
Play this same analogy in the context of business:
If the Vision of a Cellular Service Provider was to “liberate people from the shackles of time & space so that he may never be an island”, the Mission would be to build this through:
a. Network quality
b. Customer service orientation
c. Cutting edge technology to facilitate a & b
d. Best in industry employee force.
In fact, you could very well make ‘becoming the most profitable company in three years’ as a Mission statement, too. That is, if you believe that by doing so, you will actually be in a position to fulfill your Vision in a more efficient manner.
Possibly, the point you may have noted here is that while the Vision is a result of emotional ambition, dictated by the heart, the Mission steps are very rational in nature.
The purpose of going through this exercise is to once again highlight the fact that this is a process which we go through in our lives, at every stage. And when it comes to doing the same for our business organizations, why do we flounder? Why do we make it so complex? Possibly, the answer lies in what one consultant replied when I asked him the same question:
“The more complex I make it, the more you need me to come and counsel. That’s my bread and butter.”
Way back in 1995, during one of the training courses with my then Agency, we were asked to write down the one dream that drove our lives and how our current job enabled that goal.
There were two groups – men and women. The boys identified their role as a
“provider for the family…their welfare being my foremost concern”
(Vision). The jobs were the means towards meeting this responsibility.
The girls, on the other hand, were more self-centric:
“establishing my self identity as an individual”,
where the job was just a conduit for financial independence.
Conclusion: Let your heart decide and your mind tell you how.
Oxford Dictionary - skillful use of the available means to achieve an objective.
In today’s world, a well-maintained body is a critical factor of one’s self-presentation. However, while most of us are conscious of our physique from a cosmetic perspective, very few pay attention to the functions for which our body was created. The importance of our limbs is that it enables action. The hands, the legs, our eyes, our lips are all tools of action, through which we give a final expression to our plans.
Unfortunately, this syndrome is true for Tactics - the most under-rated element of the holy trinity. We spend considerable time in discussing objectives and strategy, yet fail to give adequate attention to the implementation. The importance of Tactics lies in the fact that it cannot ever be predicted even though it is one of the greatest imperatives. More often than not, it is led by gut feel. Or what I describe as ‘MSA’ - Moment Situational Analysis (it’s good to throw in a jargon or two to impresses the reader!). No amount of pre-plan can substitute the importance of Tactics. This is best exemplified in the war zones of sports and military maneuvers.
Returning to our context, once the role (Vision) and its strategy (Mission) have been decided, the next obvious step is to act it out. That’s where the body comes into play.
The reason why I’ve categorized ‘body’ under Tactics is the way the latter is defined – skillful way of using available means to achieve an objective. It is on-field maneuver. Decisions and acts based on spurt of the Moment Situational Analysis.
Let’s look at this example:
(Friends have cautioned me that I am tempting fate by citing this particular example. Since, the fundamental premise of this article is to provoke, let me take my chances.)
You are a man of about 25 years. Bachelor, moderately presentable, holding a good job with a leading firm, earning an average + salary.
It is too early for you to tie the knot and you’d like to 'play the field’. You are in that stage of life where sex is more important than relationships. You do not possess any of the obvious attributes that make you a ladies’ man. Yet, like all men, you desire all.
Now, if you had to package yourself into a proposition, backed by an execution plan, it may go something like this:
· Vision Promise -
o A liberating experience through the exploration of undiscovered facets of your mind, body & soul.
· Mission Strategy -
1. Profile yourself as a freethinker & seeker.
2. Leverage your intellect & personality, rather than looks.
3. Practice old-world manners with ladies. Even if it is out of fashion.
4. Be highly experimental in physical intimacy.
Now, having worked out a strategy, the next step is to put this to action. And that’s where Tactics plays the key role.
No matter, how much planning has gone into the above strategy, there is no way you can plan out all your physical moves. That call is taken on the spot.
You meet a girl. Extend your hand to shake it. How long should you hold it… should you look into her eyes and hold the gaze… should you touch her elbows lightly, as you escort her to the door…etc.
All of us, who have played any kind of sport, will instantly recognize the importance of Tactics. It is a key element of any game plan. The on-field moves are as intrinsic to our winning chances, as any other part of the plan.
However, these tactical maneuvers cannot be independent of the strategic directions. If your aim is to the ultimate seducer and you plan to achieve it through the 4-point strategy, then your actions should reflect that.
There is a wonderful story, ‘The Little Prince’. It is one of the three books I carry with me at all times, going over the pages, whenever I need inspiration. One part in particular, has specific relevance to this discussion. It’s known as the secret of the Fox - a dialogue between the Fox and the protagonist, Little Prince:
“Goodbye,” said the Fox. “Now here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the Little Prince repeated, so as to be sure to remember.
“It is the time you lavished on your rose which makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I lavished on my rose…” said the Little Prince, so as to be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this basic truth,” said the Fox. “But you must not forget it. For what you have tamed, you become responsible forever. You are responsible for your rose.”
To sum up, it is all about defining your role and goal. See with your heart (Vision), plan with your mind (Mission), act with your body (Tactics). This holy trinity, working in unison, each playing its specific role, will never fail to deliver your destination.
PS: By the way, have you heard of this guy NicMan, whose words I’ve quoted above? He happens to be one of the most profound thinkers I’ve ever come across. Incidentally, he also happens to be my alter ego – my pseudonym for penning such profound thoughts.