When you have done something for a long time, it is interesting to watch the evolution of how we talk and share about what is happening. For example, in the late 80’s, Tom Peter’s wrote a book called In Search of Excellence. Instantaneously, everyone began talking about excellence. It was on the lips of every leader in the country. Then in the early 90’s, Stephen Covey wrote a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective people. The next day, excellence was old school, and we all started talking about effectiveness. Shortly thereafter, we had the rise of TQM, i.e. total quality management, and CQI, i.e. continuous quality improvement. After that, the list just starts to become endless. Buzz words followed by buzz words and an endless stream of something being the hot-off-the-press new solution.
In the midst of this whirlwind of “new” and “improved” terminology, a pattern started to appear. Starting before Tom Peters wrote his book, I have observed that all of the leaders and companies who were successful all had one thing in common, clarity of mission and/or purpose. In the beginning, mission was the word that leaders used. It was not the military definition of mission, as in an action that need to get done to achieve a particular goal, as much as an overall sense of clarity of purpose and focus.
Over time and from years of visiting with struggling and successful executives, managers and supervisors, I have come to the conclusion that clarity of mission/purpose is foundational to both short and long term success. In the language of leaders, the two words, mission and purpose, have become interchangeable. Whether it is an action in the course of execution, or a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity, knowing what we do and how we do it is critical to all involved. Because, in the end, if we are clear about what is at the heart of all we do, then we can stay focused, overcome our challenges, and deliver the outcomes that are desired.
During the coming week, whether you are using the word mission or purpose, make sure that every one involved understands the scope, the direction and the reason why being mission-driven or purposed-centered is so important. People want to work at a place where making a difference is possible. We as leaders have to continually educate and reeducate all involved about what is at the heart of all we do on a daily basis.