23 Jun #074 – Integriosity – Re-Imagined Purpose – Vision
ESSENCE: When a leader, armed with a RENEWED understanding of God’s purpose for work and business, begins to RE-IMAGINE the organization they lead, the process must begin with Re-Imagining Vision–the organization’s WHY. Re-Imagining Vision requires leaders prayerfully to discern a WHY that expresses the heart God desires to implant in the organization and captures the hearts of the organization’s people, inspiring and engaging them. In order for a vision to define and drive behavior toward faithfully “doing right”, it must become the organization’s culture, and in order for a vision to become the culture, it must have commitment from the top, buy-in at all levels and constant reinforcement throughout the organization and to all its stakeholders.
When a leader, armed with a RENEWED understanding of God’s purpose for work and business, begins to RE-IMAGINE their organization, we believe they need to begin with Purpose. We will look at three aspects of Re-Imagining Purpose–Re-Imagining Vision, Re-Imagining People and Re-Imagining Profit, but the process must begin with Re-Imagining Vision.
Re-Imagining Purpose: Getting to WHY
Before we dive into Re-Imagining Vision, we want to address some labels and semantics. Some organizations have a “Purpose Statement”; some have a “Mission Statement”; some have a “Vision Statement”; and some have two or more of those. In talking about Re-Imagining Vision, we are talking more generally about the organization’s WHY, whatever label it may have. However, labels can’t turn a WHAT or a HOW into a WHY. Just for ease of reference, we will refer to a WHY statement as a vision.
“We make widgets” is not a WHY, even if you label it a Purpose/Mission/Vision Statement. It is a WHAT. “We make excellent Widgets” is better, because it adds some HOW, but we still don’t think that makes it a vision. “We make excellent widgets in order to make as much profit as possible” is a vision (just not a very Biblical one). The best way to get to WHY is to keep asking “Why?” until the real WHY emerges.
We do think there is room for an organization to have an aspirational WHAT statement as well as an inspirational WHY statement. One way to distinguish them is as a Mission and a Vision.
- Mission: What you strive to do every day. For Integrous, our Mission is “To humanize people, beautify the world and glorify God by encouraging and assisting organizations and leaders to do the same through Integriosity® and in the Way of Jesus.”
- Vision: What the world will look like in five years if you actually live out your Mission every day. At Integrous, our Vision is “That God’s restorative plan for His Kingdom would be assisted by a movement of leaders and organizations intentionally “doing right” through Integriosity®, curating workplace cultures of Shalom and enriching their communities by being a Faithful Presence, all in the Way of Jesus for the glory of God.“
Re-Imagining Purpose: Re-Imagining Vision
The importance of defining a clear vision, making it known, and committing to it in writing actually comes straight out of Scripture:
And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” (Habakkuk 2:2)
There are several key elements in God’s simple answer:
- Have a Vision: It is surprising how many organizations do not even have a vision statement. Sure, if you asked the leaders of a “visionless” organization for its “vision”, they might be able to articulate something coherent. But the “vision” articulated might sound different today than it would have last year or than it might in a year from now. It is also likely to be more of a WHAT or a HOW than a WHY. And the “vision” articulated will almost certainly not be one that has been arrived at after prayer, discussion and discernment.
- Make It Plain. If a vision is to be something people can “run” with when they read it, it needs to be something they can understand and remember. Simplifying is hard work that takes time. Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated, the largest independent Coke bottler in the United States, is proud of its “Purpose Statement”. CEO Frank Harrison says “Our purpose is our culture and our culture is our purpose.” After Coca-Cola Consolidated got purposeful about their purpose, it apparently took 17 years to settle on what they have today: “At Coca-Cola Consolidated, we believe our purpose is to serve others, to pursue excellence, and to grow profitably. Above all, we strive to honor God in everything we do.”
- Write It Down. We don’t think God’s command to Habakkuk means simply write down a vision and stick it in a drawer. It also doesn’t mean simply putting it on a sign that hangs on the office/factory wall. God told Habakkuk to write it down so that someone could “run” with it. In order for people in an organization to truly “run” with a vision, we believe “writing it down” requires commitment by leaders and constant reinforcement.
- Commitment. An organization’s vision needs to be a commitment from the top to the bottom. If the leaders aren’t committed enough to having a vision they are willing to write down, they aren’t really committed to having a vision. If the leaders aren’t committed enough to a particular vision to write it down, they aren’t committed to that vision. If the leaders aren’t committed to a vision, no one else in the organization is likely to be committed to it. John Maxwell observes: “People emulate what they see modeled. . . . What leaders . . . value, their people value. The leaders’ goals become their goals. Leaders set the tone.” A recent report on business purpose found that 89% of business leaders felt purpose mattered but only 39% felt that the business model and operations of their organization were actually aligned with its “purpose”! Was its “purpose” really its purpose?
- Reinforcement. When Frank Harrison of Coca-Cola Consolidated says “our purpose is our culture and our culture is our purpose“, he is expressing something very important–the vision of the organization has become so ingrained in the hearts and minds of Coca-Cola Consolidated’s employees that it informs and guides their actions every day and in all they do. That takes constant reinforcement, not only by repeating the vision (e.g., they have it on their website, prominently in their lobby and on conference room walls, to name a few) but also by rewarding behavior that carries out the vision and refusing to tolerate behavior that undermines the vision. For example, every new employee of Coca-Cola Consolidated goes through a multi-day orientation that includes an explanation of the Purpose Statement and the Coca-Cola Consolidated values by senior leaders. Reinforcement declares that the vision is not just a “PR piece”–it is WHO WE ARE HERE.
- People May “Run” With It. God told Habakkuk “run”–not “walk as slowly as possible”. People will not “run” with a vision unless they are inspired by it and feel ownership of it.
- Inspiration. In his book Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work, Michael Stallard shows that healthier motivation, and a healthier culture of connection, comes by creating an organizational culture that meets people’s need and desire for Vision, Value and Voice. Stallard argues that people rise to the occasion when they see their work as part of a bigger vision, feel valued as human beings and feel they have a voice in how the organization pursues that bigger vision. Its not the nature of the work that makes all the difference–it is the bigger picture within which you see the work and the culture within which you perform it. When Re-Imagining Vision, the organization’s vision should reflect a WHY that will inspire people!
- Ownership. Somehow, for an organization’s vision to drive and define its culture, which drives and defines the behavior of its people, those people need to embrace the vision. That can happen from the top down–leaders announcing a vision and then methodically and consistently living it out and reinforcing it over time. But the “top-down” approach is likely to take much longer and require much more effort than one that seeks “buy-in” throughout the organization from the beginning. Obviously, this will be more challenging in large organizations and becomes impractical once a vision has been established, but “buy-in” is needed for “running”, one way or another. A McKinsey report described one large bank that did the work: soliciting the views of over 7,000 people over a period of six months, including through 1,500 “coffee-corner” discussions. That same McKinsey report noted:
- Connecting purpose with the heart of your company means reappraising your core: the strategy you pursue, the operations driving you forward, and the organization itself. That’s hard work, and you can’t do it without deep engagement from your top team, employees, and broader stakeholders. But there’s no substitute. Your stakeholders care about the concrete consequences of your lived purpose, not the new phrase at the start of your annual report.
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
Imagine as You Re-Imagine
As you take the tools of RENEW and begin to RE-IMAGINE vision, just imagine an organization:
- With a stated and inspirational WHY vision that was developed through prayer, wide-discussion and discernment.
- That ensures all its employees (and prospective employees) and other stakeholders (e.g., vendors and customers) understand the vision and its commitment to the vision.
- Where employees and other stakeholders see the leaders living out the vision.
- That regularly reinforces the vision.
- That recognizes employees who exemplify the vision and refuses to tolerate those who undermine the vision (regardless of the rank or productivity of the person doing the undermining).
Purpose and vision is one of those areas where there are SO MANY wonderful quotes that capture the importance and power of purpose in an organization. We settled on a quote from God (to Habakkuk), but here are a few others we love:
- Chris Houston: Indeed, every organization comprises individuals who are already taking action toward some purpose. The question is: What purpose?
- David Sturt: To reframe one’s job is to make a mental connection with a grander purpose: Its social benefit. Its worth to society. Its potential to benefit others. Thinking of the good our work can do, beyond our daily to-do list, helps us change how we relate to our work.
- Ken Eldred: The real goal of business is to serve others to the glory of God.
- McKinsey: Purpose defines our core reason for being and the positive impact we have on the world. It shapes our strategy, inspires our people, engages our customers and community, steers choices at moments of truth, and is fully embedded in our culture. . . . What’s needed is relatively clear: it’s deep reflection on your corporate identity—what you really stand for . . . .
SPOILER ALERT: Now is the time to RE-IMAGINE vision, but many of the key requirements for a vision that shapes culture will come during the hard work of RE-ALIGNMENT.
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): As I began to think about, and catalog, the vision statements of organizations, I was shocked by how many organizations, particularly for-profit businesses, did not have a vision statement or, if they had some kind of Mission/Purpose/Vision Statement, had a WHAT or HOW statement. There is nothing that inspires their people. This seems particularly true in professional service organizations: law firms, accounting firms, financial advisory forms, banking firms, architectural firms, etc. Why? Do professionals get sufficient inspiration from the nature of their profession? Ask a young lawyer at a large law firm (I was one–I was inspired solely by selfish considerations of money, prestige, free meals and responsibility). When I became a partner and had responsibilities for recruiting law students, I did have a stock explanation of the societal value of corporate law that I shared with all recruits. It went something like: “What is good for American business is good for America, and we help American business achieve its goals. So what we do matters.” I believed it. I do not recall using the words “truth, beauty and goodness” to describe what I did. As I look back, it was probably more “rationalization” than “inspiration”.
Copyright © 2021 Integrous LLC. Integriosity is a registered Service Mark of Integrous LLC.
Photo Credit: Original photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels (photo cropped).