Is Your M.V.V. D.O.A.?

Who needs Ambien? Just read your company’s Mission, Vision and Values a couple of timezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

Sitting dusty on shelves throughout the country are millions of Mission, Vision and Values (M.V.V.) statements that started out with good intentions, but never quite made it into the DNA of the company culture or into the markets they serve. It’s what we call M.V.V. – D.O.A., and we see it in companies with $5 million in annual sales to $5 billion. It seems that no one is immune to the demise of these costly initiatives that start off with executive audits, questionnaires and surveys, only to end up in a document that reads like Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace .

For starters it helps to realize that M.V.V. are more than just a cultural roadmap, they’re an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people. It also helps to understand their true mechanical makeup.

To demystify a bit, the Mission has to do with what the company stands for. It touches briefly, if at all, on what the company does, but focuses largely on the philosophical stance of the company while doing what it does. It addresses the impact the company will make in the lives of the people who are connected to the brand along the way, and again, is more philosophical than tangible, more emotional than cerebral, more life-line than bottom-line.

The Vision focuses on what the company will accomplish and by when – if timing is a consideration. It is designed to create accountability to specific progress in the short and long-term. In contrast to mission statements and core values, which should remain constant, the vision statement will evolve over time as the company lives out its vision. Achieving the current vision is a call to adapt a new one, as are changing market conditions, economic factors, product extensions, new market initiatives and many other variables.

Core Values are the character traits that people in the organization will demonstrate to accomplish the mission and the vision. They are the “ways of being” of the culture and are the most difficult to drive into the Corporate DNA. This is due to the diverse business backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences of people who desire to create and maintain their own values, while perhaps considering new ones. A person’s values are highly personal and are rarely changed unless the leaders in the culture exemplify stronger, more relevant values to both corporate and individual progress.

Creating Mission, Vision and Values that inspire is as much art as it is science.

Developing M.V.V. that resonate with a company is no easy task. As mentioned, it usually starts with a series of interviews with executives, middle management, and in some cases, trickles down to the shop floor where a series of questions draws out the mindset and “heartset” of the company. Everyone gets excited, voices are heard, and opinions are considered. Then a very strange thing happens: the data get crafted into the longest conceivable sentences in the history of mankind. There is an odd pressure to make sure every principle discussed winds up in the M.V.V. somewhere and the fear sets in – fear that if they leave something out, it just won’t work. The net outcomes are overly homogenized M.V.V. that leave the reader uninspired, confused, and searching for aspirin. “This is it?” they ask. “All this work, and we get M.V.V. that sound the same as every other company I’ve ever worked for.” Not quite the result we are looking for…is it?

Call me cynical, but I have this crazy idea that if you can’t remember your M.V.V., “Houston, we have a problem.” Yet, near 100% of corporate America couldn’t make it though the M, the V, or the V’s if you gave them a new Mercedes and a raise. Bottom-line? Have two versions of the M.V.V., one where the main statements are creative, short, retainable and cool, and a longer, well-explained discourse on the meaning and execution of the brief statements. All text should be written to tap into the emotions of all concerned, as people are moved by emotion more than logic. For example, our mission at VeracityColab is “Build a great team, make great videos, delight great clients” It’s short, memorable and a good reason to wake up in the morning. It’s a statement that empowers each individual to bring his or her own interpretation and contribution to the mission – something organizations shouldn’t be afraid of. People will do what is right more often if they are given clear direction and the freedom to express themselves. Our vision, or what we call “The Dream”, is “The most sought after video agency by great brands and good people” This focuses our team on being best-in-class regardless of cost or comfort. It also guarantees if we do this, success is imminent on a grand scale. The core values, again simple. “Charge and storms like a buffalo, rest is fuel, yes is yes, deposit more than you withdraw, fear doesn’t get a vote, measure twice cut once, and hard work pays off” You’ll see there’s little in all of these statements about what we do as a company and that is intentional. We believe everyone who is hired by the company doesn’t need another useless redundancy about what they already know, nor do the clients, vendors, partners, investors, etc. We desired to make all M.V.V. easy to discuss, easy to promote, fun to say, and most importantly, easy to memorize. You can’t hold people accountable for M.V.V., let alone inspire them, unless they can recall what they are.

Once you have succinct, memorable and emotionally compelling M.V.V., then what?

The reason why shelves are filled will M.V.V. – D.O.A. is because there is rarely a plan developed for how to infuse them into the culture. There are two components to drive the M.V.V. through the culture: perpetual communication into the organization and ongoing training of the people, departmentally and collectively.

The communication component requires developing and distributing content into the culture to keep M.V.V. front-of-mind, action-oriented, and generating good results. Environmental graphics, cubicle posters, the website/Intranet, blog, e-mail, snail mail, newsletters, promotional items and desktop tools are some of the vehicles that can be used to deliver messages and information that support the M.V.V. How often and how much data people should receive depends on the learning posture of the organization, the current work loads, status of the economy, world conditions, and a variety of psychological factors that will affect an individual’s threshold to receive, retain, process and make good use of data. There’s a balance, and companies that are sensitive to people’s learning stamina will always make an effort to employ brevity, and more importantly, creativity in communication and the methods by which they are distributed.

The training component ensures that C-level, middle and senior management are trained to lead by example, an absolute essential to any cultural development program. The most brilliantly crafted M.V.V. in the world can’t influence a company whose leadership team isn’t walking the walk. Although communicating the M.V.V. into the company will have an impact, it’s when leadership lives them out that a transformation can occur… a revolution. The greatest successes we’ve had in organizational development came by delivering innovative communications backed by leadership seminars, workshops, and topic-specific training modules through which the organization learned to train itself over time.

So what’s the ROI of M.V.V.?

It’s quantifiable through research that companies with great cultures have stronger employee retention, secure better employee performance, attract better talent and influence more consistent innovation. The money that companies invest into their culture is dwarfed by what returns. But more relevant is that they are making a true, life-impacting difference with individuals where they spend most of their time in life – at work. Today, employees are looking less at the money that companies can offer and more at the lifestyle they can deliver and how they will care for them, now and in the future. The new generation coming up is screaming, “Do you really care about me… really, do ya punk?” and the older generation is asking “Mammy, where have you been all my life?” Companies who desire to be innovators in business today are learning that the corporate vision is something worth striving for, but only if it fulfills personal vision as well. And although you can’t please all the people, all the time, a little effort goes a long way here. Smart leaders in business are closing the chasm between the employee and corporate structure by being relevant, sincere, and connected to what matters to their culture. And those that don’t employ best practices here end up either in, or moving toward, the employee replacement business.

So what next? Create or re-engineer strong, retainable M.V.V., develop a plan to roll them out, never stop communicating the principles in the organization, and never stop training. Wise leaders who maintain this discipline in their companies understand that cultural development programs have a beginning, but no end. Unwise “leaders” who don’t are somewhere near the beginning of the end. dds

Casey Williams