“By creating value for our customers, we create value for our shareholders. We use our expertise to create transport-related products and services of superior quality, safety and environmental care for demanding customers in selected segments. We work with energy, passion and respect for the individual.” — Volvo mission statement, quoted by Bernard Marr.
Have you ever taken time to observe an ant hill? (If not, then you need to rethink your priorities.) There is a great deal of structure in the comings and goings of ants. Individually they seem to be nothing more than animated Brownian motion but collectively you can see purpose in the superhighways of ants streaming out of your pantry.
What is it that organizes random actions into concerted effort? I’m not sure about ants, but in the human world we craft mission and vision statements with the intent of inspiring us and providing direction to our work. As the Volvo quote above illustrates, we often fall short of these goals. (Can you say ‘written by a committee’? I knew you could.)
Virtually every organization has vision and mission statements gathering dust on the walls, mostly as uninspiring and forgettable as Volvo’s. What are we doing wrong? For starters, most of us are unclear on the difference between vision and mission statements. They are not the same. In short, a vision statement gives the direction we want to go while the mission statement gives the steps we are taking today to achieve our future goals. This article by Jennell Evans discusses this in more detail and includes solid examples of vision statements, such as this for the Alzheimer’s Association: “A world without Alzheimer’s disease”. Ms. Evans gives more detail on crafting vision and mission statements and I’ll refer you to her article for more detail, as well as Marr’s comments linked above.
Do you have a vision for your life as clear and compelling as that for the Alzheimer’s Association? Can you state in ten syllables what you are striving for? When all is said and done at the end of your days, how will you know if you’ve won or lost? Do you know what steps you should be taking now—your mission statement—to accomplish your vision?
Life is a verb. Time is finite. You can run about chaotically, the personal equivalent of an anthill kicked apart by a malicious child, or you can direct your efforts in a worthy direction. The choice is yours. Just don’t ask Volvo for help.