“In the many years I’ve spent in the business world, I’ve realized the huge advantage of being able to bring people along to our way of thinking. Every day, at work – and, of course, in your personal life – you come into contact with people who need to understand your point of view, either for you to help them or for them to help you. Equally, you need to understand their point of view. We need to be able to persuade others to our way of thinking and ‘read’ how they are thinking.”
I have always struggled with mission and vision statements, and for some reason, they have been stuck in my mind lately. I am going to use this space to wrestle with some of my thinking.
A mission statement is basically how we will get somewhere, and the corresponding vision statement is that somewhere an organization wants to go. Both are important, but I feel something is missing if we focus just on these two elements.
The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.
To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.
Not only is that a clear statement but there are actual measurables in the vision statement. Other than “most loved,” you can easily measure if they are the most flown and profitable airline. The end goal is pretty straightforward.
I have thought about that a lot in the context of school districts.
I have been asking school districts lately, “If you were successful in achieving your vision, what would that look like for students and your community?”
For example, I have seen schools and districts share in their vision something similar to, “All students will be college and career ready.” Maybe not in those exact words, but at least something to that effect.
So if that is the “vision,” are these schools following students after they leave in grade 12 to know if they have achieved that or not?
Is this a vision that is only nice words with no follow-up? Could a student fail out of school but also be “college and career” ready? Could a student graduate school and also not be in that vision?
The critical question is, “If we were successful in our mission and vision, what would this look like for our community in tangible measures?”
The word “tangible” is bold because I struggled with what was missing in that sentence. So I looked up the definition of tangible, and here is what I found:
“…it is clear enough or definite enough to be easily seen, felt, or noticed.”
Simply put, here are three questions an organization should be able to ask and answer:
1. Where do we want to go? (Vision)
2. How will we get there? (Mission)
3. What will it look like when we arrive? (Tangible Evidence)
These questions are essential at the district, classroom, and school levels. And maybe, the answer to the third question is a constantly moving target. When “learning” is the goal, how do we ever get to an endpoint? Tough question but still one that is necessary to consider.
I write this because it is much harder to have people join you on a journey if they do not know where it will ultimately lead.
The focus on the word “tangible” is not necessarily to create a clear path forward but to have an idea of what lies ahead if that path is successful.