ADASTRO--Business IS Rocket Science
We Add Value Our Story Business IS Rocket Science Useful White Papers Contact US

Home » Useful White Papers » Knowing Where You're Going

  Knowing Where You're Going

by Cliff Kurtzman
Chief Executive Officer, ADASTRO Incorporated.

March 24, 2004

"Once we were standing still in time
Chasing the fantasies that filled our minds
You knew how I love you but my spirit was free
Laughing at the questions that you once asked of me

Do you know where you're going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to, do you know?"

--from the theme from "Mahogany" by M. Masser, G. Goffin

With Tinkerbell pointing the way and Peter Pan setting the course, the way to Neverland is clear: "Second star to the right, and straight on till morning." But at some point we all grow up, and that means taking a leap from the world of fantasy into one of reality, where knowing where you are going can be a bit more difficult. Does your business know what direction it is going with clarity, or does it seem that each day you come to work you are simply chasing whatever fantasies come into the minds of the powers that be? Alas, in so very many businesses it is more a case of the latter than the former.

Those companies that do have a clear sense of where they are headed are nearly always driven by leaders who are able to motivate their teams to move in the desired direction with a sense of urgency. In addition to strong leadership, the best way to assure that a shared commitment exists throughout an organization is by articulating, documenting, and then strategically using clear statements of corporate mission, values, and vision for the future. This article will provide a brief overview on how companies can go about developing these tools for their business.

Let's first define the scope of each of these items:

  • The mission statement describes the fundamental objectives of the business.

  • The mission statement is often augmented with an associated set of values and guiding principles. These values provide behavioral objectives that describe how the organization intends to act as it engages in its core business, and they create a cultural contract between the organization and its constituents.

  • The vision statement motivates, challenges and compels an organization and its staff towards a preferred and achievable future.

Developing and using clear communications that address each of these areas is what is critical--it is not terribly important what labels are used for the statements, or if the content is explicitly broken out into three separate statements or combined into fewer communications.

How can an organization develop a good mission statement and set of values that can really help guide its growth? In the 1950's a professor at St. Louis University named Walter Gast identified six laws that a business should satisfy in order to be successful, and in their book "The Mission Primer" Richard and David O'Halloran have taken those laws and incorporated them into a methodology for developing good mission statements.

Key to Professor Gast's laws is that in order for an organization to perform profitably in our society in the long run, it must have a mission to do more than just make money--it must fulfill a variety of other obligations that _enable_ it to make money. Specifically, successful organizations must do these six things:

  1. Produce a want-satisfying commodity or service, and continually improve its ability to meet needs.

  2. Increase the wealth or quality of life of society through the economic use of labor and capital.

  3. Provide opportunities for the productive employment of people.

  4. Provide opportunities for the satisfaction of normal occupational desires.

  5. Provide just wages for labor.

  6. Provide a just return on capital.

When many organizations draft their mission statement they focus entirely on laws 1 and 6. But Gast claimed (and there is evidence to support) that organizations that articulate a mission and values embracing all six laws will tend to be more successful than those that don't. In their book, the O'Halloran's develop a process for using Gast's laws to construct a set of objectives for an organization, and then using the objectives to construct a mission statement and a set of values.

With so many possible options that a business can choose from in adopting its values, how does an organization decide which ones are the most important to focus upon? In their book "Organizational Vision, Values and Mission," Cynthia Scott, Dennis Jaffe, and Glenn Tobe describe a "game" that can be played using "Value Cards" that allows an organization to consider and prioritize a wide spectrum of values that might be incorporated. Values are also divided into six "clusters" that assist in their categorization:

  1. Social Responsibility values represent ideals that we experience as being good in themselves. These values relate to things like fairness, honesty, tolerance, courageousness, integrity, forgiveness, peacefulness, and environmentalism.

  2. Mastery values focus on achievement in the external world. These values relate to advancement, intellectual status, recognition, authority, power, competition, achievement, and competence.

  3. Self Development values represent the search for personal challenge, creativity and self-development. These values relate to challenge, self-acceptance, finding inner harmony, knowledge seeking, adventure, creativity, personal growth, and spiritual growth.

  4. Relationship values represent the development of personal relationships, helping and working with other people, feeling part of a group or team and sharing experience. These values relate to belonging, diplomacy, teamwork, helping, communication, friendship, consensus, respect and consideration.

  5. Continuity values focus on maintaining stability and enduring qualities. These values relate to tradition, security, stability, neatness, self-control, perseverance, and rationality.

  6. Lifestyle values relate to the ways that people work and live, personal appearance and the way that a person approaches the world. These values relate to health, pleasure, play, prosperity, family, appearance, intimacy, aesthetics, and community.

Once a mission statement is articulated, designing a vision statement allows an organization to focus on what it plans to create and where it wants to go in the future. The vision statement provides a motivating force for the organization, even in hard times, and it gives people a better understanding of how their individual roles contribute to where the organization is moving as a whole. A vision statement might incorporate objectives over a specific multi-year time frame (5, 10, or 20 years out, for example), which would not be appropriate in either a mission statement or a quarterly plan.

A vision should motivate and challenge the team to meet objectives that are realistic but yet difficult to achieve. A vision statement might provide insight into how the organization plans to differentiate itself and measure its progress along the way, and how it will recognize that it has accomplished its objectives when it achieves them. Because each day that passes is a step into the future, the vision statement will need to be revisited and updated more frequently than the mission statement and values.

In creating these corporate statements for your organization, it can help immensely to look at examples, both good and bad, from other organizations. The references below this article provide links to hundreds of corporate statements in diverse industries, along with discussion on how various organizations actually use the statements when they are created.

And don't hesitate to let us know if ADASTRO can be of further assistance, whether it be to provide guidance in helping you craft your company's mission, values, and vision statements, or in designing other strategies that will shape a more profitable future for your organization. After all, that's a key part of our mission!

Additional Reading:

Organizational Vision, Values and Mission: Building the Organization of Tomorrow by Cynthia Scott, Dennis Jaffe, and Glenn Tobe (1993) ISBN 1-56052-210-0

The Mission Primer: Four Steps to an Effective Mission Statement by Richard and David O'Hallaron (2000) ISBN 0-9676635-0-4

Corporate Statements: The Official Missions, Goals, Principles and Philosophies of Over 900 Companies by Paul G. Haschak (1998) ISBN 0-7864-0342-X

The Mission Statement Book: 301 Corporate Mission Statements From America's Top Companies by Jeffrey Abraham (1999) ISBN 1-58008-132-0

We Add Value | Our Story | Business IS Rocket Science | Useful White Papers | Contact Us

ADASTRO Incorporated

791 Price Street, Suite 144
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
(281) 480-6300

Other Starhold Enterprises:
Online Advertising Discussion List
Tennis Server | Tennis Server Ticket Exchange
MyCityRocks | MyCityRocks Ticket Exchange
Featured events in our Ticket Exchanges:
Copyright© 2003-2006 ADASTRO Incorporated. All rights reserved.
Site Access and Use Policy. Privacy Policy. A Starhold Enterprise.