Building a Solid Foundation for the Future

ISSUE:

In today’s economic reality, the rules have clearly changed and this is the biggest challenge for firms in the coming years. In these difficult economic times, approaches new to business are required to succeed and prosper. Now more than ever what it is going to take is to build a solid foundation for your firm.

ABSTRACT

Essential to any successful organization is a powerful mission for it and an inspiring vision for its’ future. Although it may have many other names, the vision of an organization is embodied in what is often referred to as a purpose or mission statement. Without such a mission statement, by default, the organization becomes about making money – for the owners, which doesn’t inspire anyone. An effective mission statement addresses the questions:

1. What do we do?

2. What are we committed to in doing what we do?

3. Who are we for our customers or clients?

4. Who are we for our employees/staff?

5. Who are we for our owners?

6. Who are we for our community?

DISCUSSION

A powerful mission and an inspiring vision for its future are essential to a firm’s success. These serve as a source of inspiration for the employees of the firm, unleashing their creativity, productivity and effectiveness. Without such a mission and vision for the future, their work quickly becomes exactly that, work, a dull routine sapping people of their natural aliveness and motivation and leaving them disempowered and resigned.

Although it may have many other names, the mission of an organization is embodied in what is often referred to as a “purpose” or “mission” statement. For example, one of the most successful American companies of our time, Johnson & Johnson, is studied in almost every major MBA program in this country, particularly for its “credo”. Johnson & Johnson’s “Credo” is acknowledged throughout their organization as the primary reason for the company’s success. As do all well thought-out mission statements, the Johnson & Johnson Credo sets forth the fundamental principles and values of the company, and these principles and values will typically include a number of elements.

The first element essential to a clearly stated and effective mission statement responds to the question “What do we do?” The second element addresses the question “What are we committed to in doing what we do?” The third element considers the question “Who are we for our customers or clients?” The fourth element defines “Who are we for our employees/staff?” The fifth element seeks to answer “Who are we for our owners?” And finally, the sixth element is responsive to “Who are we for our community?”

While corporate America has been writing mission statements for many years, many firms have been largely unaware of the power that such a statement makes available to them. Most firms come together rather haphazardly when one or more individuals loosely discuss the kind of future that they want to create. While it is common for such individuals to discuss the areas in which to specialize, the size of the firm they wish to create, the amount of income they wish to generate and the like, it certainly is not common to engage in conversations regarding the fundamental purpose and principles on which the firm will be built.

That is not to say that in many cases there are not motivated people, good people, with strong values and principles, who are committed to building a firm based upon such values and principles, and it is also not to say that often those values and principles are not expressed. However, it is the rare firm that writes those principles and values down and speaks of them consistently with all partners, associates, staff members and clients and among failing law firms these essential conversations are almost always conspicuously absent.

In the case of Johnson & Johnson, the key executives of the company consider it to be their primary purpose to keep the Credo and what it represents in front of every single employee of the company, all of the time. For at Johnson & Johnson, the Credo is not merely a collection of noble words. It is something that lives and breaths within every person in their organization.

So what might a mission statement for an engineering firm look like? The following is an example:

Mission Statement

1. We are an infrastructure engineering and design and land surveying firm headquartered in_____. Our dedicated staff of talented, creative, energetic individuals operates at the highest level of professionalism while consistently producing innovative and economical solutions for our clients and their projects.

2. Our clients trust us to take care of them and know that we do what we say we will do in a timely manner. We are positively responsive to their needs in everyway. We keep their best interests in the forefront while operating at the highest level of excellence, integrity and ethics.

3. Our work environment is fun, high-energy and team-oriented. It is a pleasure to work with each other; we are outgoing, courteous, honest and friendly. Our staff is provided opportunities to develop themselves personally and professionally and they are recognized and rewarded for their accomplishments and contributions.

4. We operate a highly successful firm committed to continuous growth so as to provide the greatest possible value to our clients, staff and owners and all who are associated with us.

5. We are active participants in and contribute individually and as a firm to the engineering and surveying profession and the communities in which we operate. We are recognized as leaders in the profession and the community.

It becomes immediately apparent that this mission statement includes the six elements discussed above. Paragraph 1 sets forth what the firm does. It doesn’t do mechanical engineering or architecture. It’s strictly an infrastructure engineering and design and land surveying firm.

Paragraphs 1 and 2 set forth what the firm is committed to in doing what they do.

Paragraph 3 set forth the firm’s commitment to its employees. The firm is not interested in just any kind of work environment, only a fun, high energy, team-oriented work environment. It is also clear about the type of opportunities it is committed to providing its employees.

Paragraph 4 contains an all important commitment to the ownership of the firm. This is a critical element of the purpose of any organization, for without profitability, the organization’s other objective will not be fulfilled.

Finally, paragraph 5 sets forth the firm’s commitment to its community and their profession.

If viewed simply as a hollow group of well-intentioned words on a piece of paper, such a mission statement might provoke disdain and skepticism. If the words, even with good intention, are placed on a piece of paper and the piece of paper tucked neatly in a drawer, the document would be worthy of such an attitude. On the other hand, if the words represent the deeply felt commitment of the owners, if the document is presented to the staff as the underlying philosophy of the firm, and if partners, associates and staff alike work together to fulfill the mission, such a written statement can and will serve as a source of inspiration for the employees of the firm, unleashing their creativity, productivity and effectiveness. Such a mission statement can achieve for any firm the same motivational effect as Johnson & Johnson’s famous Credo, and that firm can enjoy the same long-term benefits that such an inspired environment provides.

SUMMARY

A well written mission statement which represents the commitment of everyone in a firm can and will service as a source of inspiration for everyone, unleashing their creativity, productivity and effectiveness. Such a mission statement can achieve for any firm the same motivational effect as such statements are achieving in corporate America.

Author's Bio: 

Scott Hunter, author, speaker and industry leader, helps people GET UNSTUCK.
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http://www.unshackledleadership.com/