I remember walking into orientation on my first day of work just after finishing college, the pages of well-thought-out rhetoric outlining everything the company was, is, and wanted to be. Innovative, yet traditional. Efficient, yet thorough. Kind, yet firm. Adaptable, but experienced. Hard working but also balanced.

It was overwhelming, and I began to drift off into a different headspace, contemplating the staying power of some of the most influential people and brands of my time and thinking, “Gosh, all Nike had to say was that if I had a body, I was an athlete.”

Could it be that simple? Could an organization’s mission, vision and values be reduced to just a few words or sentences if done correctly? And what, exactly, would make those words effective?

Well, I’ve come a long way since that first job out of college. I’ve seen companies do it well, and I’ve seen companies that always seem to miss the mark. How is it that some of our great leaders struggle so much to put into words what they are really about? And it’s through this conclusion that themes started to emerge as to why some organizations’ messaging says it all, and others say too much but still never get the point across.

Five Common Problems with an Organization’s Mission, Vision and Values

Problem No. 1: No one (not even you) can remember it.

“Spread ideas.” That is the mission for TED. Simple, honest, clear and easy to remember.

It’s easy to get consumed with the intricacies of the rhetoric and forget the basic purpose of your mission, vision and values. The goal is for you, your employees and the community to know it and spread it for others to hear. That’s pretty difficult to do if no one remembers it!

Whether it’s too long, too complicated, too ambiguous, too hard to remember, or just not who you are, if it’s not memorable, it’s not effective.

Your mission, vision and values–no matter how fancy or how many times it appears in a laminated picture on the wall isn’t working for you if people can’t remember it.

Problem No. 2: It’s generic or not who you are. 

“[Insert company name here] is the best/most integrated/most innovative in its industry. We offer superior customer service/value/products. We strive to be the best in class. We…”

While your vision, mission and values should be about you, it doesn’t need to be narcissistic, or worse–not who you actually are!  Your mission, vision and values should reflect what your organization has to offer and your true competitive advantage–not your perceived competitive advantage or what you want it to be.

Think of an Instagram account where a person puts on an Instagram filter to look like a celebrity. Is it pretty? Yes. Might it get attention? Yes. But it has already been done, the market has been taken, and people will see that it’s not really who THEY are.

A great mission, vision and values leaves key stakeholders knowing exactly who it belongs to without explanation because it’s honest, accurate and unique to your organization.

Problem No. 3: There is not a clear purpose.

When creating a mission, vision and values, don’t forget one very important component that sums it all up: your purpose and reason for existing!

These statements should give stakeholders a solid idea of why you started the business, the problem you wanted to solve or the opportunity you wanted to seize, why it’s important, and what’s your passion. In other words, what is the business’s purpose and why are you here?

Don’t assume your stakeholders know this, and don’t expect them to do the work to find out! Without a solid understanding of the goal or purpose of your presence, there is nothing that differentiates you from the millions of other businesses in the world. Your purpose should be precise and connect you to those you serve.

Problem No. 4: There are SO MANY core values.

We all want to be smart, fun, interesting, glamorous, witty, stand-out, memorable and dynamic. But we can’t be everything to everyone, and core values aren’t about what we want to be anyway. Rather, they are about what we ARE!

It takes a lot of restraint to whittle down core values to the essentials. But core values are the foundation of who you are; they should be simple and memorable but also so essential to who you are as an organization that they never change.

Three to four core values are all that are needed (and probably all that will be remembered) to form a strong foundation. Make sure they are precious, concrete and hold up over time.

Problem No. 5: Your vision leaves the audience uninspired. 

Uninspired leadership and an uninspired vision leads to uninspired work and uninspired loyalty. When constructing your vision, ask yourself, where do you want to take your organization and how will it change people’s lives or create a better world?

It isn’t just a vision; it’s a roadmap for ev

ery person who works for or with you, and these stakeholders want to be inspired and believe what your organization is selling.  Vision isn’t about money, or power, or simply success; rather, “Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.” – Bill Hybels

It isn’t just about creating pages of notes on the ideal business to present at an employee orientation or post on a screen at a conference. Mission, vision and values are the foundation of your business and future and what motivates people to want to work with or for your organization. When a mission, vision and values are memorable, honest, clear, precise and inspirational, it sends a message of who you are, what your purpose is and why people would be motivated to become part of your network.

Opportunity Knocks works with leaders,CEOs and entrepreneurs to help create a roadmap for success in growing your business through messaging, vision, goals and execution by using a peer group of Central Oregon professionals to help guide leaders through the intricacies of running a successful organization. 

For more information about membership or opportunities within the Opportunity Knocks organization, check out our Opportunity Knocks website

Previous post

What Makes a Good Mentor? 

Next post

What Peer Mentoring is Not!