Flock of geese

Recently, I pointed to meerkats as a fine example of successful collaboration, stemming naturally from the shared vision, mission, and values of a group. Today we’ll begin to “unpack” traits I observed within the meerkat clans, which keep them aligned, moving forward, and enjoying themselves along the way. Commitment, Communication, Collaboration, and Celebration are the characteristics identified, and we’re starting with the importance of organizational commitment to a shared vision, mission, and core values.

I heard a personal story recently that illustrates this importance really well. It went like this:

Three old friends planned a fantastic summer vacation together. Over email, they decided which Caribbean island to visit, with the goal of spending one “amazing week” of their lives together in paradise! One agreed to book the flights, the second would handle the transportation once they arrived in paradise, and the third would secure the accommodations. So far so good, right? Yes, they were on the same page and destined for glory…

Unfortunately they had vastly different visions for what an “amazing week” meant. The first couldn’t wait to fly first class and relax all week at a 5-star all-inclusive paradise; the second was excited about getting lots or fresh air, and a little exercise, while scoping-out investment properties around town via bicycle; and the third was psyched about spending seven whole days immersed in “get out of your comfort zone” adventure, on a dime!

You can imagine the reactions and emotions as their mismatched visions began to collide: Confusion, anger, frustration, resentment, fear, and anxiety quickly ensued. These are the same emotions and reactions that become pervasive when workgroups amble along without a shared vision, unified mission, and clear core values.

Organization-wide commitment, combined with a deep understanding of how individual roles contribute to the vision, mission, and values, becomes the heartbeat of a workgroup. Real synergy develops, and decision making gets easier when priorities, goals, measurements, staffing, and transitions – throughout the workplace – are aligned with well-defined and meaningful vision, mission, and core value statements.

These statements act as organizational pillars, and should be used as the litmus test for stop/go, change/don’t change, go faster/slow down. At every level, if a decision is not in complete alignment with these pillars, you better rethink it!

If today you don’t have a clearly defined vision, mission, and set of core values, or if what you have needs to be revisited or updated, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Vision statement: Define the long-term vision for your organization – what you aspire to be. It should give insight into your core values, and be inspirational for members at all levels.
  • Mission statement: Determine your primary objective and measure of success, and put them into one clear statement. The more succinct the better.
  • Core Values: Identify deeply held values that will not change over time. These are the guideposts for all interactions and behaviors.

So, remember our traveling friends? If they had just identified and shared the individual visions for their trip… They could have easily collaborated to create that amazing week in paradise, and built it around a unified mission, which supported most (if not all) of their vacation needs. Simple? Yes of course, but intentional action is required.

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