Simplify The Mission

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Companies are complex organisms.  Living, breathing, and (hopefully) growing entities that can have a lot of moving parts.  Obviously, the larger they grow, the more complex they become.  It’s no stretch to understand keeping a single proprietor on course is easier than keeping a company of 10,000 individuals rowing in the same direction.  Systems and processes are helpful in the effort, but I’m going to make it even easier.  It is all about the simplified mission.

Complex missions or battle plans are very difficult to execute over a long period.  The more you grow and the further you get from the point of origin, the more difficult it becomes.  Lines get blurry, moving parts get added, and the distribution of resources changes the lens.  It gets fuzzy and difficult to know if you are on course.  Google’s original mission will always strike me as something special, and their success is evident.  Google set out to, “organize the world’s information.”  The mission is clear, and every employee knows if they are working towards it or if they have drifted off course.  The mission serves as a beacon in the distance.  Every employee can look up and know if they are on course.

Working in the technology and healthcare space for the last 28 years, I found it troubling that each group within our organization was aiming at a different target.  Engineering was aiming at a time-based target while support focused on keeping the number of “issues” below a self-imposed threshold.  Quality assurance, sales, and implementation each had a different perspective on their role and how they would meet the objectives.  It makes sense that each role had a different skill set and a different function to perform, so they would naturally have different targets…or does it? 

Staying with my healthcare technology example, what if we simplified the mission to, “make the caregiver’s day easier today than it was yesterday”?  Now let’s see what that does to the team.  Design and development now focus on software with one goal in mind; making the caregiver’s day better.  Support is no longer worried about an arbitrary number.  They are focused on resolving a caller’s issue so the caregiver can get back to providing care to the patient.  Implementation emphases a relational training model that appreciates how the product changes the caregiver’s workflow.  The focus on “making the caregiver’s day better than the day before” becomes the unified mission of every group.

5 Steps to a simplified mission

1.       Survey the team to understand the current mission as seen through the group’s view.  Do not assume their understanding of the mission is consistent with yours or with other teams.  It is important to appreciate how each team sees their role, as it will provide excellent perspective as you attempt to simplify the mission.

2.       Total market domination is an obvious macro-mission, but what does it take to get there?  An open and honest discussion of the simple measurements is important.  In the example above, it was, “develop a product the nurses or caregivers will use.” That was the key to design, development, implementation, support, and sales.

3.       When you think you have simplified it to the lowest level, you probably have two more levels to go.

4.       Train leaders on the simplified mission and allow them to develop the metrics used for their respective teams.  The mission will be the same. However, the metrics may be different for each group.

5.       Demonstrate the conviction to the simplified mission by constant and consistent reinforcement from all levels of leadership and management.

A simplified mission means everyone in the organization can ask, “did I make progress towards the mission?” on every task, every project, and every day.