Why I don’t believe in Mission and Vision statements

Quick. Recite me your organization’s vision statement! Now the mission statement.

What is McDonald’s? IBM’s?

The whole vision/mission craze started years ago, with the growth of leadership training. Now, not having a vision or a mission statement seems like serious sin.  Yet most people can not recite from memory their own, much less make day to day operational and personal choices based upon what is supposedly their reason for doing what they do.

The problem (in my opinion, which makes it somewhat suspect, I know), is that most vision and missions statements don’t empower or refine decision making processes.

Simon Synek became an internet phenomenon when he introduced the concept of “Why first, not what.”(f you haven’t watched this, you should)

I’d like to argue a step before that. Start with who.

Taking that into organizational culture, what if we did away with the mission and vision statement, and began with an identity statement. This is “Who we will be.” What if we started with our legacy in mind and built backwards?

Recently, I hit the 40 years old mark. Depending on your stage in life, I am either old as grandma (my 4 year old’s perspective), old, (my 10 year old’s perspective), Middle Aged (my 20-30 year old friend’s perspective), still a young man (my parent’s view) or a wiper-snaper(  those over 80.) Still not sure what a wiper-snapper is but old people use that sometimes. But the age change certainly has cause me to become more reflective.

What do I actually believe in? How do I make decisions?

I’ve come to believe in an Identity Statement and a set of common core values. That’s it. But here’s the kick. You have to have a decision making tree? What’s a decision making tree you ask? Good question. Go to the front of the class.

My Uncle after whom I’m named is a pretty good drag racer. Growing up, I went to lots of races. I learned that the lights that go down and release the cars is called a tree, short for Christmas tree I think. But the order always remains the same. Top light, then moving downwards to the greenlight. Greenlight meant go.

When I founded The Ocean, we had a mandate. “Make it different”. We had some parameters set up by leadership. English only. Try to be in a certain part of town. Target this demographic.

The whole concept actually developed accidentally. We made some up front decisions. We knew that being different we could be criticized and that creativity can get off the rails quickly. So our identity needed to be established. We are Christ Centered. Then Culture Creating. Then a Community. From there we chose 8 non-negotiables. These formed our decision making tree to getting to green. Our choices began with who we were, then flowed into more explanation of what the kind of people we wanted to be.

Decisions would flow down the tree. If, at any point, the decision got a red light, it was a clear stop, don’t go forward. Once leaders figured out this tree, making decisions became much easier.

A mission statement will get you into all sorts of things you shouldn’t be. A vision statement will take you areas outside your core skills. Which maybe is good, maybe isn’t. But an identity statement, and a decision making tree, those will hold you through a myriad of change.

Or not. I’ve girded up my loins, put on my big boy pants. Fire your canons!







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