90% of organizations continue to miss their strategic targets. Poor planning is at the root, but you are only as good as your culture. Here's what you need to know about using a true north statement to connect your vision, mission, and values.
Written by: James Milsom, Head of Marketing
Ninety percent of organizations fail to meet their strategic targets due to poor planning.
You are only as good as your culture and strategy.
The beginnings of a successful organization, let alone strategy, are creating and communicating a vision, mission, and values.
However, it can be a daunting task if you don't know where to begin.
But, if you follow these simple tips, you'll be on your way to creating a strong company culture with an inspiring direction. And, with a Hoshin Kanri management twist involved in the shape of True North statements, you can wrap your direction into a coherent, passionate declaration.
“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”
What is a vision statement?
A vision statement is the anchorage of a strategic plan, and it describes what your organization wishes to accomplish in the long term.
The statement gives a direction for planning and executing strategic plans and highlights your organization's future look.
To create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere
Coca Cola's vision
To craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit—and done in ways that create a more sustainable business and better-shared future that makes a difference in people's lives, communities, and our planet.
What is a good vision statement?
A good vision can propel your organization to new heights and inspire your employees to be their best. Here are some pointers on what makes a 'good' statement:
- Aligned with your organization's strategic plans and goals
- Easy to communicate and remember
- Defines the organization's purpose
- Conceptual yet challenging
- Focused on the future, but written in the present tense
“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Creating a vision statement
Creating a compelling vision need not be complicated. Here are some tips on building yours:
- Lay out your goals
- Ask the big questions
- Communicate to your employees and factor in their feedback
- Make it bold, aspiring, and motivational
- Keep it brief but clear
- Why is your organization unique?
Inspiration can come in many forms and help shape meaningful, story-driven statements:
TEDx advice on building your Vision Statement
What Is a mission statement?
With a vision set, you will turn to discuss your values and objectives. While often confused with visions, the mission is very much different.
A mission statement is a statement that highlights your organization's purpose.
The statement answers the question, "why does your organization exist?" and defines and explains your organization's core values and objectives.
Progressive Insurance's mission statement
We seek to be an excellent, innovative, growing, and enduring business by cost-effectively and profitably reducing the human trauma and economic costs of auto accidents and other mishaps and by building a recognized, trusted, admired, business-generating brand.
Xerox's mission statement
Our strategic intent is to help people find better ways to do great work — by constantly leading in document technologies, products, and services that improve our customers' work processes and business results.
What is a good mission statement?
As for your mission statement, here is what a 'good' version measures up as:
- Succinct and concise
- Connective and motivational to your employees
- Measurable and compelling
Creating a mission statement
Creating your mission is straightforward and starts with a "to." Measure the statement against it being:
- Valuable – identify the value your organization offers employees and customers
- Inspirational – why should employees want to work for you, and what drives customers to your brand?
- Plausible – your mission should be accomplishable and creditableness
- Specific – relate your mission statement to your business strategy and how you will accomplish your objectives
What are business values?
Business values, also known as core values, are a collection of constant fundamental beliefs and directional principles that work harmoniously in succeeding your organization's objectives, shaping culture, and influencing the implementation of your strategic plan (equally as important as your business model).
These are often a combination of defined attributes but come together from how you operate and act as an organization.
Core values make it easy for you to make vital decisions, encourage teamwork, and foster collaboration between your customers, employees, and the organization.
Examples of business values
● Passionate about customers and consumers
● Freedom to succeed
● Pride in our work
● Strive to be the best
● Value for each other
And these are brought to life in many ways, including through career collateral:
Diageo's culture summarized in an effective careers video on YouTube
How can you identify your business values?
Finding your values can stretch from surveys to observing your business in practice, like through a Kaizen. However, here is a suggested values process:
- Gather your team of experts in charge of creating the values
- Collaborate with all stakeholders to gather valuable thoughts and ideas
- Take a deep dive into your current organization's culture. You can get inspiration from other companies in the industry
- Draft the core values and share them with all stakeholders, and consider their feedback
- Refine for increased clarity, and ensure they align with your strategic plan, vision, and mission
- Consider any feedback from stakeholders
- Polish the final authentic draft and post it throughout the organization
Some ideas on how to communicate your business values
As we have seen with Diageo, there are many ways to cement and talk to your business values. Some best practices include:
- Executive decision-makers should lead by example
- Make sure the core values are always visible throughout the organization; on scoreboards, bulletin boards, communique, and dashboards, among other locations
- Instill the core values in your organization's communication framework
- Utilize any employee advocacy tools in your organization to communicate the core values, foster collaboration, input, feedback, and recognition
- Boost employee engagement by appreciating the employees' efforts to promote the values
What is a true north?
True north is an approach from Hoshin Kanri that ensures all stakeholders are aligned toward realizing your organization's strategic goals. By creating a statement that blends the vision and mission, you can create a clear, guiding direction that gives purpose to action at all the organization's levels.
A true north statement articulates your organization's purpose and guides every decision. It gives the right direction your organization should follow to achieve its strategic plans.
True north examples:
To be a global defense, aerospace, and security organization we must ensure that our strategic priorities develop a sustainable advantage, which helps our customers to take care of the thing that matters most to them.
To maintain our position as the market leader in insurance services, we will pursue opportunities to fortify our relationships with existing customers, ensuring our products deliver a contingency for every tomorrow.
What is a good true north statement?
As your organization's compass, the true north has the power to propel you to breakthrough results, and it all starts with what a "good" north statement lives up to be. This includes:
- Definite, straightforward, and audacious goals
- Guide the organization to take the right path
- Encourages all stakeholders to align with the organization's goals and strategic plan
- Permanent and constant principles
Watch how this Canadian health organization brings its True North to life.
How to create your true north
When building out your true north, look at your current vision and mission and within your industry for examples.
Combining will initially be difficult, but it should inspire everyone toward the end goal.
Don't be afraid to draft, re-draft, and draft again.
Try this process for drafting:
- Identify the most important objectives of the organization
- Gather the teams in charge
- Conduct an audit of the organization's past performance
- Draft several potential true north statements
- Gather feedback from all stakeholders
- Refine, retest and polish
The importance of vision, mission, values, and true north statements
The vision and mission statements are the guidelines for where you want your organization to be in the future and how it will get there.
The business values direct how all stakeholders will behave during this journey.
True North is a succinct tool to ensure all these stakeholders are aligned and moving in the same direction toward achieving the organization's goals and ensuring the success of its strategic plans.
Learn more about strategy creation
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About the author
James Milsom is Head of Marketing at i-nexus. James has wide-ranging experience in markets such as telecommunications, energy, education, and software.
As Head of Marketing, his drive is to raise awareness and understanding of enterprises' challenges in delivering strategic objectives and transformation amidst changing markets and the obstacles traditional tools and methods present leaders.
If you’d like to talk more about strategy execution, reach out to James at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with him on LinkedIn.