It has been amazing to see the percentage of companies I have spent time with in the past few years who engaged in a review and updating process for their vision and mission statements, their goals, and their objectives.
Part of this was an increase in the number of firms that are working more assiduously to link strategy to operations, whether by strategy maps or other devices: implementing these business management tools generally leads to a review of the corporate strategy itself.
Other organizations were updating or implementing their business intelligence and performance management environments, and are using the update to push through a rethink of the objectives and measures that will matter for the next few years.
Turnover in corporate leadership, of course, is also playing its part. However, whatever the reason, vision and mission reviews have been a key part of the recent workload.
Now, after a few years’ of implementation (in the early cases), a pattern emerges, as to what IT’s vision and mission generally should be.
There’s a real balancing act involved in building the elements of this structure.
The vision needs to be a forward-looking statement about the enterprise as it will be in a few years’ time.
It should be short and written to be memorable.
Visions should avoid clichés and hackneyed business speak in favour of something direct.
The best one I saw, implemented in 2005, was an IT departmental vision of “we enable the business we need to be”.
Eight words that took a stake in the success of the business, avoided technology for technology’s sake, refused to allow IT to be just a utility, and said success for IT came with IT being a serious contributor — from ideas through to implementation — of the enterprise’s competitive stance.
This IT group is making great strides toward achieving that vision, precisely because it is a rallying cry that allows for many different kinds of contribution.
Under this banner, extensive application renovations, upgrades and replacements have occurred, while a steady stream of “yes we can” responses to the business executed.
They are, by the way, an under-average spender.
Its counterpart mission statement deals with the “how” of the vision (the “what” we want to be).
They chose “we offer added value through our skill in technology in every interaction we have”.
Again, short and to the point, and it reminds the IT staff that although they have seized upon the success of the business they are not its line management.
The call for “added value” asks for continuous improvement and innovation from IT in the way it works; the idea of “offering” means that credibility is earned and the right to act is not just handed to the group, and the other words point to core competence and a mandate: to make every interaction from a help desk call to the opportunity to present on the future of the firm an outstanding event.
Within IT, they are careful to watch the balance between “needing to delay” (to get something sorted out that must be resolved before proceeding) and “accepting imperfection” (get going, accomplish something, clean it up later).
Goals and objectives that people will actually want to exceed come naturally from the inspiration of one vision of what you want to be and a short and focused “overarching principle” of how to get there in the mission.
When the opportunity comes to move forward, remember the goals and objectives are the ones that point in various directions: the vision and mission must be unambiguous and univocal to succeed.
Finally, performance management has been linked into this (after a few years to figure out how). Today everyone in IT is expected to demonstrate “value add”. How you choose to present that is up to you as an individual contributor.
Two help desk clerks, side by side, may present radically different “value add” statements: one works to reduce their call handling time; the other has a side project to build a help desk wiki to improve everyone’s service.
Each is followed by their manager — the net effects are assessed at year’s end. It counts, in this firm, for 25% of their evaluation.
Slowly they are building intrapreneurs who see and act as though “IT is their business”.