The Importance of Vision and Mission

The Goodwind Company Research

“IT organization tends to replace basic business elements of vision and mission with a command and control structure to gain performance – is that the right way to go in the digital age of high unpredictability?”

A majority management literature and MBA classes call out for the importance of vision (what we want to be) and mission (how we contribute with value) statements in the corporate world. These are key components to set the identity, role and the future vision of the company that will give focus to the company or organization. The vision and mission are the foundation of any business. But when examining the IT organization, vision or mission statements are quite uncommon, hence creating a sense of confusion about the IT organization’s role and identity. IT organizations would rather excel in ITIL process and strategic initiatives (operational excellence) than focus on their role in the value chain hence set focus. Why is that? Are IT organizations excluded from basic business logic and planning?

No, all organization in any business or value chain environment need to understand its vision and mission – including the IT organization. However, many IT organizations view themselves as “just” a delivery organization of services to business with little actual interaction with business. The success is determined by the color of the agreed SLAs and not but what value IT actually supports business with. In these cases, vision and mission statements are often not prioritized creating confusion and ineffective business interaction.

Interestingly is that in today’s unpredictable business and IT environment, business success is determined in the IT/business interaction. The way IT and business interacts to leverage new technology and IT to meet new customer demand in the digitalized market. Still many IT organizations refuse to understand how they contribute to business success. 

A couple of weeks ago, I met with an organization that said all the right things. IT is integrated in the business, fulfilling business needs. SLAs had successfully been set up to monitor the availability of services that business ordered. Still business was unhappy and employees were missing motivation to drive performance. But when probing the situation more in depth, it was interesting to understand that there was no real interaction business (dialogue or value focus). We continued to discuss the set-up and we noticed that the role of IT (mission statement) and vision was missing. There was no way of measuring value of IT and driving business dialogues. Not uncommon situation! But this organization was struggling cost reductions and adding value to its business partners in an increasingly changing environment. How to achieve that? The answer is obviously together with business – but how to do that without understanding IT’s role and how it creates value in value chain. 

We often see the same problem in IT organizations today as described above. IT organizations have implemented ITIL, set-up SLA, doen outsourcing and “interact” with business – but have missed the fundamental building block – to understand IT’s role in the value chain and its future vision. I would compare it to having built the most perfect car but having no idea of how to drive it. The value of the car is how you use it and how it takes you to the location you want and good time. 

There are other implications of not presenting a vision or mission statement. That is how to set focus, engagement and performance in the organization. To define an identity that easily can be communicated to all employees building values and behavior. I have during the last year visited a number of companies with this same problem. The answer is in many cases to build in elements of command and control to force a direction that is unambiguous and blurry. As a result many employees are frustrated and confused, and cannot perform. At the same time, senior managers complain about an organization lacking drive and missing performance culture. Somehow we need to understand the purpose and goal of our business to perform.  IT organization tends to replace basic business elements of vision and mission with a command and control to gain performance – is that the right way to go in the digital age?

My recommendations:

  1. Review what your IT organization’s vision and mission (role of IT in value chain) statements are and how they are communicated and used. 
  2.  If they are not in place – start work immediately with external facilitator to develop these basic statements. 
  3. Understand how these statements affect the rest of the strategy planning – including strategy, themes, and initiatives, KPI etc. 
  4. For more information and inspiration – please contact me!

I heard a rumor a couple of years ago of a public government department that had problems with understanding its purpose and vision. Expensive consultants were called in to investigate and one surprising finding was that communication was mainly internal and not external with other department or citizens. How do you justify your existence in that situation? How do you create any value without any interaction in the value chain? Anyway, the consultants reported their finds and a few months later the department was closed down. That was the end of that!

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