by Christy M. Pruitt-Haynes
Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with several companies and organizations. While each has been a unique experience, there is one thing they all had in common: Each wanted to excel — not strive for mediocrity or just exist. I’ve never heard a CEO say, “We should strive to be in the middle of the pack for our industry.” No entrepreneur ever said, “I hope I am OK at this business.” Everyone wants to be excellent! So, if excellence is the universal goal, why do so few achieve it? What makes an organization excellent, and, more importantly, how can you add your organization to the Excellence List?
Before we discuss the traits, let’s quickly define organizational excellence. Most organizations measure success, a.k.a. the “excellence ruler,” in two terms: financial excellence and mission statement excellence. Financial excellence simply means they make a lot more money than they spend. Mission statement excellence means that the organization is meeting or exceeding its written mission statement. Seems easy right? Make a lot of money and meet your goals in the process? Well, as my grandmother always said, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” Having had the benefit of working with some excellent, and some not-so-excellent organizations, I’ve learned that the excellent ones share five essential traits.
The first trait is a well understood and accepted mission statement. I am often shocked by the number of employees at every level of an organization who have no idea what the mission of that company is. Most people know what is expected of them — “I turn widget A and push button B” — but they have no idea why or how that affects the larger goal of the organization.
We’ve all heard statements like, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you arrive.” Employees make decisions every day that ultimately affect the success or failure of an organization. How are they going to make decisions that get you closer to your mission (closer to becoming an excellent organization) if they don’t know what that mission is? What possible criteria will they use to determine what choices to make if they don’t know where they should be headed?
The most successful organization I’ve ever been a part of started each meeting reciting its mission. It reminded us why we were there and what we were trying to achieve, provided a ruler to measure our success and was the final deciding factor in decision making (Will doing A get us closer to our mission?).
Excellent organizations are full of employees who not only know the company’s mission statement, but incorporate it into their daily professional lives. In addition to starting meetings with the mission statement here are four ways to help your employees act with the mission statement in mind:
- Print the mission statement at the top of each performance appraisal and make sure each factor being evaluated relates to the mission.
- Include the mission statement on every job description, and link each duty to part of the mission statement.
- At the end of each meeting, review the decisions made and discuss how each decision supports the mission statement.
- Start a “Mission Statement Moment” wall and let employees acknowledge times they saw their co-workers act with the mission statement in mind.
The mission statement is the “X” on the treasure map. The better your employees understand what that X is and how their day-to-day work affects the organization’s movement toward X, the better they can help the organization achieve excellence. While we prepare to discuss the next trait of excellent organizations, please share some of your mission statement stories.
What experiences have you had with a highly successful, well-understood mission? What downsides have you noticed when either the mission isn’t clear or the work of each position doesn’t support that mission? Comment below, and be sure to read through what others have shared. Don’t forget to check back again for my next post about Trait No.2 of organizational excellence.
Christy M. Pruitt-Haynes, SPHR, founder of CORE Consulting, is a facilitator, trainer, coach, catalyst, speaker and an expert in Human Resources and Organizational Development. A consultant and strategic partner with businesses, major corporations, universities, community groups, charitable organizations and independent professionals, she earned her Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Human Resources Development and holds a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Personnel and Labor Relations.
Find Christy on LinkedIn and Twitter @ChristysIdeas, or contact her at Christy@COREConsultingOnline.