Big Hairy Audacious Goal, Vision Statement, Core Purpose, Mission Statement, Brand Promise – why does it all matter and what does it all mean?

Many of you have either participated in or led meetings to try and define some or all of these high level strategic areas for your company. You agonize, hire third parties, conduct discovery processes, brainstorm, read books and eventually come out the other end with content that attempts to describe some or all of the answers to the above areas of a strategic plan.

Once completed, you take all of this work out on the road with you and bounce it off some of your trusted colleagues. You feel a level of commitment, excitement, and a little concern as you begin the process of determining how the results measure up with the people you trust. As you begin to discuss where you have ended up with your high level strategy, you sense that your colleague is lukewarm to your effort. It is hard not to become defensive at their reaction to the work you have put into this. As a result you either determine you shouldn’t have tried to do this in-house or you blame the third party you were working with. Sometimes this goes back into a file but still ends up in your strategic plan until you have time to create something better. Or you make a few tweaks to the wording, but overall the message stays basically the same.

Why is it that you want to define this high level thinking and strategy as leaders? The two most obvious reasons tend to be:

  1. To provide direction and define what you stand for.
  2. To drive alignment of the internal team towards a common goal.

You think to yourself, If this is all you are trying to achieve, why is it so difficult to deliver on?

Below are some common mistakes to watch out for if you are undertaking this with your company:

  1. It is next to impossible to do this with ONLY your internal team. As it has been said before “you can’t read the label when you are inside the bottle”.  For most companies it will be more effective to have multiple levels of your team involved in a guided process by a third party.
  2. Writing to inform rather than to inspire. Too often those statements lack any kind of flair or personality and will fail in resonating and inspiring your culture.
  3. The process needs to be purposeful and measured. Many times we fail to break down for people how they can contribute to this bigger picture. We also neglect to set up a process to recognize and reward people both privately and publicly when they have gone above and beyond towards bringing these strategic statements to life.

So, why is why so important? It seems the one word that describes what we are after is “PURPOSE”.

What the hell gets us up in the morning? What are we trying to do to impact other people, other businesses, or the world? Why are we doing what we do every day and why should anyone care? Every company starts out with a “purpose”, but few companies invest the time to dig deep enough to figure out what the real purpose is. Sometimes the purpose is more easily defined by understanding what you never want the company to be, or by defining your non-negotiables.

At the end of the day, if you can find your purpose and say it in a way that is authentic and captures why others have come to work with you, you will be on your way to the creation of a strong high level strategy. Defining this will set you up for alignment internally and direct everyone towards a larger goal.