The Importance & Impact of Mission to an Organization or Business
by Wendy Van Ryn
This case study highlights the importance of a clearly defined mission and mission statement, context for its meaning, and the potential need to reassess the language and interpretation, as the organization evolves, or leadership changes.
CONTEXT & CHALLENGES
Is there a time in the life of a business or organization when the original mission or mission statement needs to be reevaluated and clarified… or possibly even redefined?
This wasn’t the initial question, but became the primary question as data emerged from the research.
For this client, I proposed, developed, and executed a 3-phase project to get to the root of an issue causing a loss of stakeholders, and an excessive expenditure of marketing dollars.
Through in-depth research and analysis, what resulted was that in the 20 years since the founding, as the leadership changed, so had the meaning and execution of the mission. The mission statement itself was accurate, but the interpretation of that mission meant different things to the leaders than the stakeholders… causing confusion and frustration.
It wasn’t an overnight change… it was a slow shift, over many years. The question that resulted was whether to revise the actual mission or move back towards the original mission.
Note: The work for this particularly entity involved a public education institution – as such, names have been withheld from publication. I take client privacy very seriously, especially when it’s of a sensitive nature. Please contact me if you have questions.
Because this client was an educational institution, my work was directly with the Executive Director and Board of Directors, realizing the final decisions would come down to the decision and vote of the Board.
This institution did not have a lead generation problem. Nor did they have a lead conversion problem. They were losing stakeholders (employees and students alike) much later in their educational journey. Instead of identifying the causes as internal, they’d had well-crafted marketing pitches presented to them that appeared to be solutions.
We were able to work to find the challenges and their root causes, create some immediate-win strategies, as well as craft and propose longer-term solutions for the Board.
In order to really understand what was going on, I needed to listen to the perspectives of the entire community: the administration, the Board, the teachers, students, and even families.
I brought in additional help to conduct qualitative research (in-depth interviews) with the stakeholders. I also revised their approach to quantitatively gathering data through their employee surveys.
One of the difficulties in gathering the necessary information was that the employees knew their email addresses could be easily seen in the survey submission process. As a result, many felt uncomfortable being truly transparent in their feedback. Additionally, they felt the surveys didn’t ask the questions they wanted – questions they felt were necessary for continued growth. So – I revised their entire approach to maximize confidentiality, and ask the necessary questions — both from the perspective of the administration, as well as the employees.
The data increasingly revealed that something had changed, but in order to understand what that was exactly, we had to take a trip back in time… to the beginning, the original founding of the institution. Many of the people were still there, and their insights were key, but finding documents, speeches, and even video from the founding were invaluable to solidifying that a change had indeed taken place.
Through this research I was able to discover the impetus for the founding of the organization… their heart and soul, the very why behind their existence.
STRATEGY & SOLUTIONS
Through meetings and findings reports, I was able to communicate several things to the Board… that over time the meaning of the mission and its execution had actually changed. The stakeholders were buying into the “marketed” version of the mission, but once “inside” were given a very different message. How this applied to their day to day resulted in confusion and frustration.
Whether to change the mission itself or the change the actual wording of the mission became the decision for the Board.
My work simultaneously involved assisting the Marketing Department directly… providing a short and mid term plan of a viable department, complete with high level roles and tasks. This would see them easily through the next 5-10 years of growth.
The work was completed upon presentation and delivery of the reports to the Board of Directors for decision-making.
I very much enjoyed the time invested in this work, the people, and in knowing they had full understanding of the decisions before them. The desire for the continued success of the institution really stood out among all stakeholders and is to be commended.
It cannot be emphasized enough how words and their meanings slowly shift in time. Think about the internet 20 years ago and how many new words we have due to technology and social media alone!
As time passes, often our own perspectives shift and we don’t realize it. We’re learning and growing creatures, throughout our lives.
The work with this client was a really great example of how those shifts can be imperceptible. Many times it’s not any ONE decision that puts a business or organization on another path, but the sum of many smaller decisions. The reality is perceptions and perspectives do shift – and there’s nothing inherently wrong about that, they just need to be understood from a bigger-picture perspective.
The work with this client is a great example of how evaluation of the mission, with every change of leader or Board member, is a great preventative measure against what we in the branding world would call mission creep. There may be a point in time when a new direction is necessary, and an organization will greatly benefit from assistance and training in that process, so the transition is smooth.
Working with an agency that specializes in branding and messaging is a great way to ensure all members of your organization are on the same page, have the same understanding, and are working towards the same goals.
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