In strategic planning, the first thing we do is articulate our mission, vision, and values. These three pieces of the plan are important because they get at the very essence of who you are and what’s important to you- without them, there will be no mission you.
Corporations know that this piece is critical to ensuring that all the subsequent plans they make and actions they take are leading the company in the right direction. The same goes for you. Spending some time up front really thinking about what you truly want your life to be will result in far less energy wasted in pursing activities that won’t get you there – or, worse, ones that seem sensible but will actually take you in the opposite direction!
You’re going to write three separate statements, and we’ll talk about each in a moment. First, however, it’s important to understand how the mission, vision, and values statements work together. Your vision is who you (or your business) want to be, your mission is what you do, and your values are how you do it. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself revising and tweaking these statements repeatedly until you get all three right. They are closely intertwined and are often the most difficult strategic plan components to pin down. But if you give it your honest, devoted attention, you’ll be surprised at how much you learn about yourself and how much clarity of purpose you’ll gain in the process.
Let’s begin with the vision statement. This is your absolute ideal picture of who you want to become.
Rule one: think big. I mean BIG! Don’t settle for “I want to try some new things” or “We’d like to be one of the best hair salons in Fayette County.” Instead, opt for “I want to be an adventurer” or “We aspire to be the top hair salon in south metro Atlanta.”
Rule two: no hesitant language. Don’t start the statement with “I’d like to” or “It would be nice if” or “I hope.” These less assertive phrases disempower you. “Want” or “aspire,” always. Prefer more active affirmations? Try “I will” or “I choose” or “I will work.”
Rule there: give a bit of detail. Not much; vision statements should be short, no more than a sentence or two. How about: “I want to be an adventurer, someone known for trying new things, taking on challenges and inspiring others through my stories.” Or, in the case of a business: “We aspire to become the top hair salon in south metro Atlanta, sought after as creative innovators who always put the client’s satisfaction first.”
See where I’m going with this?
Great! Onto your mission statement, which can be short like the vision statement or can be a paragraph or two.
Remember, this is what you’re going to do. Again, watch the timid language. It’s okay to say “My mission is to…” but you can also say “I will…” or simply “I.”
Just avoid setting the wrong tone with wishful statements such as “I will try…” or “If all goes well…”
And keep it fairly broad. We’ll get to goal-setting next month, and then we can be specific. For now, keep your eye on the big picture. For example, our hypothetical adventurer might write, “My mission is to uncover and experience everything life has to offer, big or small. I will engage actively with my life every day and be always on the lookout for new people, places, and activities to explore. I will also share my adventures so that others can be entertained, learn something new, or even be inspired to try new things themselves.” And our salon owner might say, “Our mission is to make each client feel great about themselves by helping select and create the hairstyle that best fits his or her features, preferences, and life. We will create a warm, welcoming environment that makes getting a haircut feel like an experience.” Starting to make sense?
That brings us to values. For the purposes of a strategic plan, you’ll want to pinpoint between three and 10 core values that you can’t live without. Faith, positivity, realism, honesty, caring, open-mindedness, and friendliness are all options. So are craftsmanship, persistence, and innovation. Whatever matters to you. Try brainstorming a long list of values, then narrowing it down. Sometimes you can combine several items into one. For example, “kindness,” “graciousness” and “tolerance” might become simply “humanity.” Once you’ve identified your short list, write a line or two about what each value means to you. You could define humanity as being kind, gracious, tolerant, and understanding of everyone you come into contact with.
Remember that personal definitions of a given word can differ significantly. For example, one person might say that harmony is maintaining a sense of peace between people, while another person defines it as remaining in tune with your own personal priorities.
Words like “success” have as many meanings as there are people. There isn’t a right or wrong here; it’s about what each value means to you.
See why we tackle this section before we start setting goals? If you don’t have a clear picture of who you want to be and what you want to do, how can you possibly choose what steps you should take to get there? And, of course, these are the areas of your plan least likely to change over time because they have to do with you and your priorities rather than with changes in the world or marketplace. Next month, we’ll talk about strategies, goals and actions. Until then, work on your mission, vision, and values. You’re well worth the effort.