How to create meaningful mission for your team

Today  most  organizations have written their mission statements to show the world why  they  exist.  But still,  having a company  mission does not help  you if you  don’t have the right people to  fulfill it. Organizational  mission is a complex of understandings and beliefs why  organization exists,  but still, written somewhere is not enough  to say  that  it will be fulfilled by  the employees of the company.  Global  mission is a good starting point, but still,  what  many  companies and business leaders don’t understand, that  this mission must  be translated to  each  team  specifics.

I will  give you  a short example with the department I lead.

We are part of a company  which  mission statement is :

“To manufacture and deliver in a timely  manner quality  and reliable electronic subassemblies,  devices,  systems and services in the fields of Medicine,  Avionic and Aerospace,  Vision, Control and monitoring systems,  Precision Industrial  Equipment, by  using the most recently  available equipment, technology  and knowledge.”

At this  company  I lead the HR department.  Our mission can’t be the same as the company,  because some of us are not engineers.  We cannot work  with the most advanced equipment,  we don’t know every specific for the industries listed. But we can help  the business to  build experts who  will represent the company  in the right manner and will help the company  to be accepted as a reliable partner for all  those industries.  

Our mission as a department looks like this: “To ensure business has right professionals on every  positions which  coupled with  energy  knowledge and skills, make the company  reliable partner.”

This simple statement created by my  department members in 2017 gave us the direction and is the basis for developing our strategies in every  are the HR works to  partner the business.

We created our mission by  using the simple practice of the brainstorming tool. The we analyzed and finetuned what  we had at the time and that  became our mission. 

Here is the path we walked to help  you  create your own team mission:

Explain why you need mission

People don’t feel  engaged to company  mission if they  don’t see their place in this complex statement.  A company  mission must  take the essence why  the company  exists,  but why  all  departments exist  is not something that  this mission statement must  explain.  This is a role of the department leaders and/or managers.  It is what  they  have to  build, together with  the team members of each  particular team or department, to  state why  they  exist as a team  and how their existance helps the company  reach  the goals year by year  and fulfill it’s global  mission. You  can do  this by  just  inviting your department or team members to a meeting and start  forming together the vision why  you  xist  as a team and/or department.

Analyze what the team or department contributes to  the broader company  mission

People often start  building something,  just to realize that  what they  are building is not responding to  the “big picture” Think  of your mission as the element that  is part of a puzzle. Your team or department element must answer the environment and the picture,  the company  wants to  paint.  Together with  the team or department members you will  need to  analyze where you are,  what  are company  expectations to  toward your department or team and how you  can contribute as one to  ensure that  the big puzzle, called company  mission, will look full. Analyzing the company  mission and the environment is crucial  to  be successful  in creating your own mission as team or department.

Start  with  freely  generated ideas
Take the company  mission and set I as basis to start.  But after that you  will need to let go  the team work  on the internal  understanding of the big mission and build it’s own mission statement.  This is easily  achieved when you  give them the freedom to brainstorm and create their own mission, the way  they  understand it. You ca do  that  by  preparing your team or department members by sharing why  you  need mission and on what  basis will you  step  to  create one and them create it for you.

The simple model you can use contains several steps:

1. Set rule s for the session and communicate them

 Sounds easy,  but is the most  crucial  and challenging element of the session.  If you  want great results you  must  ensure them  by setting rules for you  and others when starting to  generate ideas. Some of the rules can be:

  • Do not judge ideas, just  listen and write them down
  • Piggyback  on others ideas
  • Aim for quantity, do not search  for quality 

2. Warm up  the people that will have to  work  on the mission

Do not expect people to  come prepared and know what  to  do,  and just  to  start  generating ideas.  To avoid weak  results you  will need to  mentally  warm up  participants. Ypu  can easily  do  that  by  starting to  generate ideas,  that  are not connected with  the theme of the meeting, but still require people to  work  on generating ideas for a limited period of time.  At our team we did that  for  about 15 minutes before the main session.  After we generated ideas,  we wrote them on a blank  chart and got through  the process of generating,  analyzing and choosing the best  idea.  That  gave us the strength to  believe that we now know the process and will generate the best  product.

3. Brainstorm ideas for the ideal team or department

One mistake I have seen and even we, as a team started with was to start  generating ideas about the team that  we were.  Do not make this mistake.  It limits the possible positive solutions. Before starting with  the actual  work, remind again the team about rules you  will follow and time frames you  will  go  through In the process.

Do not forget to  set direction people have to  generate ideas in. Some great directions can be:

  • It would be great if our department/team…
  • I wish our department/team…
  • Our department/team is…
  • In the future(1-3 years) our department/team will be…

These directions can give you  a good idea how to start. If you  don’t know how to expand offer them to your department/team  members to generate ideas for discussion.

4. Cluster ideas into similar themes and name the themes. 

This is a step  that  will help  you  to  define not only  meaningful  themes, but also  areas  where your department/team mission will start  to  evolve.

5. Vote for ideas and themes

Even if you  invite fewer people you will have a good amount of ideas and themes.  What we did with  my  team,  when we finished generating ideas was to  rank  them.  We did it like:  every  team member got on opportunity  to  rank  3 ideas or themes.  At the end we got a short list  with the most  valuable ideas and themes we can discuss on and have removed the weak  and insignificant ideas and themes. The remaining ideas and themes we set as a new categories. Then every  team/department member was given a simple task.

The rule we followed was to  write about idea or theme in less than 30  words.  This introduces clarity  and simplicity  in  the process and divides direct ideas form consequential  explanations.

6. Bring all  the vision statements together

At this step  we wrote all  ideas and themes, explained with  30  or less words,  on a board and started analyzing them. We tried to  find patters, repeating information and ideas. 

You  will need to  conduct  that  step  with  your team.  Doing it in silos will build your vision about department/team mission, but will generate alienation in others.  Be sure to involve everyone in the discussion.  Extract the most repeating and strong sentences. Write them down as a complete final  sentence. Read what  you  wrote loud and, if needed or expected from others participating in this step, correct it. After you  did that you  will have your department/team mission formulated in front of your eyes.

This mission, formulated from all department/or team members is the glue that  makes your department or team work  meaningful .  It is what  came out from everyone and you  can be sure that  this is the mission that  everyone will follow and will be connected with .

IN CONCLUSION:

Setting a team or department mission is a crucial step  to  start  building and sustaining high level of engagement and accountability.  Every  employee want to  be seen as a valuable member of a team, fulfilling important mission that  changes the status quo.  Building it together with  all  members of the team or department will guarantee you  close relation and full identification with  the mission you  want to  fulfill and will grant you high level  of accountability  and  dedication from all  team or department members.   

It is now up to  you  to  help  your team or department to  see their mission as part of the big company  picture.

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