Monday, June 23, 2014

What veterans can teach you about mission

“It's a smart business decision to hire veterans. Give vets a mission and the result you want and they will achieve it. That’s what they've been trained to do,” an entrepreneur pointed out on a recent business show.

What about your organization? Have your folks been trained to be laser-focused on the mission? Will they give it their all to get results? Is this what you've trained them to do?

In too many companies, employees may not even know the mission or it may have been relegated to meaningless words on a plaque. I recently had a poor experience with an airline and took a look at its mission. I couldn't find it on the website but an analyst’s report pulled a statement off the annual report that covered the territory...Not a word about the customer among its five focus areas. The airline believed if it was clean, safe, on time, had courteous employees, and delivered great revenue at competitive costs it would have “exceptional customer satisfaction.”

How does that happen exactly? If I'm an employee, focused on the five areas, as long as I stay courteous and don’t do anything to escalate costs, I'm fulfilling the mission.

This is not a rant about poor airline service. This is a rant about the power of mission to focus everyone’s energy to achieve company goals. Examiners for a major quality award routinely ask every employee they encounter, “What’s your role in achieving the corporate mission?” When people can tell you this in their own words, you get stellar results. The whole point of the mission is to guide daily action and decision making.

When a mid-sized commodity manufacturer was faced with an urgent need to transform or be acquired, it started by revamping its mission and vision.

Mission: The people of XYZ are leaders in the design and manufacture of abc solutions to meet your def needs.
Vision: To be a premier supplier of abc using innovative technology throughout our company while sustaining this in a positive and creative environment. 

This was a major change for the company; emphasizing people and a positive, creative environment. It was the first step on their successful, sustained renewal journey.

You can read about creating a mission and the bottom-line impact data in an earlier blog.  To repeat one fact: in companies where almost every employee believes the mission is important, profits are 5 – 15% higher than in companies where few people believe mission is important.

My husband and I were honored to be part of a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary
Sculpture “Les Braves” by Anilore Banon,
Omaha Beach St. Laurent Sur Mer, France

of D-Day at Omaha beach. The band was conducted by Colonel Arnald Gabriel, Conductor Emeritus, The United States Air Force Band, who had come ashore on this beach that “longest day” as a young recruit. His mission was to get rid of the machine gun nests raining death on the troops wading ashore. The mission was clear so the results were clear.

If you want to put your people first in meeting goals, that must be clear in the mission. If you want to build a positive, creative environment, that must be in your mission. If you want to achieve "exceptional customer satisfaction," as the airline claimed, you must have that in your mission, train and empower employees, and reward them for doing everything to achieve the mission. 

“Get people on a mission and the metrics will follow,” John Zumwalt, former CEO of engineering firm PBS&J, told his company leaders when he took over. If you have a strong mission AND train your people to accomplish it, you will succeed. Learn from our veterans.
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Join a live webinar, Get People on a Mission: Strategic Decision Making Drives Daily Action, Thursday, June 25, 1 PM Eastern or catch it on demand or on DVD.   Learn from contemporary CEOs and the U.S. Founding Fathers about how to create a mission to drive results.

1 comment:

Mace said...

The idea of the "mission mindset" is critically important. Employees often seem clueless as to what their mission is, let alone the company's. No organization can succeed unless there is absolute clarity as to their goal and purpose.

What an honor for you to have been present at the D-Day commemoration. There is no example of commitment to mission than those who serve in our armed forces. When the mission is clear and worthy, people are willing to die for it. What a great lesson. Thank you for your article.