Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana and the creator of Facebook’s Like button, helps entrepreneurs achieve their company’s ambitions by bringing clarity to the mission statement.
Every company needs clear purpose and goals, with clarity around how to get there. According to some research we recently worked on, ⅓ of UK employees believe their business suffers from a lack of direction and 51% said they would feel more productive if they knew how their work fit with their teams, and overall company mission.
The decisions we make as teams and individuals should be based on what will drive us to success for our company goals, and service our mission the most. Without knowing the wider picture or understanding how your work aligns with the rest of the company, it can be difficult to move forwards.
Businesses need clarity to push forward with which features to develop next or what markets to enter. There are literally hundreds of micro-choices required to build and grow. So how do you go about ensuring everyone is working towards the same mission?
Defining your purpose
Do you know your company’s mission statement by heart?
Spread ideas. Belong anywhere. Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. These are the mission statements of TED, Airbnb, and Tesla. To each of these companies, their words capture their sense of purpose and impact every part of their business – from how they spend their time to how they create brand clarity among customers.
However, they also impact employee retention. One study found that 79% of business leaders believe that purpose is central to business success, but only 27% of help employees connect their own purpose to the work of the company.
The process of writing a mission statement is as much about self-reflection as market analysis, digging deep to find exactly why your company needs to exits and how it can perform best.
70% of employees say that having more sight of what other teams in their company are doing, and why they are doing it, would improve their overall company performance.
This is no easy task, and the roadblocks can be both internal – What are we really doing? – and external – Will these words translated to others? – but the result is a company clear on its mission.
As Asana, we were able to capture our mission in three phases:
In the first phase of any plan, no idea is a bad one. Part brainstorm, part brain dump. This phase is about bringing ideas to the surface without fear of judgement by exploring all the possible answers to the question: Why are we really doing this? Why now? Why us?
Phase one needs one single goal – to pinpoint what really matters, to you, and to your organisation.
Defining your purpose
Shifting from idea generation to development. You need to determine which combination of words, phrases, and ideas capture your team’s reason for being. Our research found that 51% of employees believe they would be more productive if they understood how the tasks they were completing fitted into the wider company objectives.
Honing these ideas from your brainstorm and drawing them down into one clear purpose is essential. To help us with each phrase or concept, we ask: Is the idea…
Even if your statement is wildly audacious, someone should still read it and think, “Yes, I can imagine a world in which that has come true.”
If we achieve this, have we done something amazing? Mission statements are at their core sources of inspiration. This is a time to be bold, aspirational, even edgy. This is about what you’re creating in the world.
Think about the meaning of each word. Does it say exactly what you want to say?
Speak at a human level, describing the human need that’s being satisfied and avoid jargon.
Does the statement act as a compass, clearly outlining what is (and isn’t) possible for your future? Challenge yourself to use ever-more-accurate vocabulary.
You want everyone in your company to be able to recite this statement from memory. To make it maximally memorable, how can you make every word count, wordsmith it down to its core essence?
Are there things that we know in our hearts we’re going to want to work on that don’t fall into this statement? If so, how can we abstract the statement to be inclusive?
Incorporating Mindfulness is Essential
It can be tempting to spend hours debating the choices of our words, but don’t let the desire for perfection get the better of you. Incorporating mindfulness into your planning stages will help both yourself and your team stay connected and focused on the overall mission.
Trying things like:
Taking regular breaks
Sleep on it. This can help separate the pride of creation from the objectivity of curation, yielding greater perspective.
It may make sense to kick off the idea-generation phase by asking for contributions. We sometimes don’t know what we don’t know. Inviting others to the process widens and deepens perspective.
Stay inspired and connected
Remind yourselves that this is about the space between one another, the purpose that has brought you together.
Make this more than an intellectual exercise
Get your team to tune into their emotions. Don’t be afraid to inject some passion when brainstorming.
Although this process is intense, there remains the prospect of developing some incredible ideas with your team. It is vital, however, to continually check that everyone is still on the same page throughout all phases of the project and that everyone is working towards one mission.
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