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The Importance Of Mission

August 22, 2008 3 comments

Over the last several years, I’ve noticed something interesting that supports what some of the best business writers (like Jim Collins) have discussed for years:  companies with clear missions work better.

In the context of this blog, “better” means works more smoothly and effectively with partners.

I’ll site a very specific example for this posting:

Upward Unlimited (www.upward.org) is a business and ministry located in South Carolina.  Their business is providing services and products to churches that wish to run sports leagues.  Their mission, though, is related to them as a ministry and is: 

“To introduce children to Jesus Christ by creating opportunities to serve through sports.”

That’s about as perfect an expression of mission as it gets.  Its tight, clear, specific and easy to understand.  But is it effective?  Put another way, does the organization align behind it?  Yes it is, and yes they do.

What I find fascinating about Upward is that in every meeting, and in every discussion, this mission is pre-eminent in their comments, thoughts and actions and every decision they make is geared towards “how does this help us serve our mission”.  As a Microsoft partner serving some of their IT needs, their selection process of us as a vendor was based on how we would serve this mission.  Our first meeting after the selection was primarily designed to help us understand that the mission isn’t part of the company – it is the company.  Our planning meetings with them (which occur quarterly) focus on how to improve their ability to focus on the mission through effective use of information technology.

This clearly expressed mission, and high degree of alignment around it, improves our partnership because every recommendation we make and every proposed project we suggest is evaluated first by us, then by Upward, on the basis of how well it serves the mission – not how it serves the ego of the CIO, or the comp plan of the CFO, or the personality of the VP of Sales. 

One last point specific to Upward:  their faith-based mission helps alignment because it creates a common set of values and vocabulary.  However, its their focus on the mission that creates their success.  This is possible to achieve for any company not just faith-based organizations.

As a partner, how can you best work with this kind of mission driven client? 

  1. Initially (during the sales or evaluation cycle), take the time to understand the culture and the alignment around mission. More importantly, make certain alignment exists between your culture and their mission.
  2. Evaluate your work (proposed and completed) based on its ability to support the mission
  3. Make certain any team members that work with the client are informed and clear about the client’s mission, can articulate it, and can express how their work aligns with it
  4. Finally, spend planning time with the client (that may be non-billable) in order to refresh yourselves at the fountain of the client’s culture.

Love to hear your opinions on this and your experience with other highly aligned clients.

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