November 25, 2013

Leadership and Organizational Core Values – Guest Post

Does the mission statement matter if no one reads it?  Sometime ago while I was writing my mission and vision statements, I asked myself this and several other similar questions. I also asked myself, what drives one organization to greatness and another to mediocrity? While simultaneously considering these questions, I developed the following thesis: An organization risks becoming mediocre or drifting from its core values if the internal communications plan and the external marketing plan are not managed with equal intensity.

Organizations can lose sight of their core values because of employee turnover or a lack of internal focus. I call this change organizational drift. Assuming that an organization has superior core values, organizational drift would be defined as the loss of drive, focus, and the determination to succeed. Organizations must maintain a deliberate communication strategy (both internal and external) to ensure that strategic messaging is tailored to a specific goal. An external communication plan (i.e., an advertising campaign) is intended to drive public perceptions; however, it is less common to discuss how to drive internal perceptions and core values. Shaping organizational perceptions and core values allows leaders to shape and drive organizations to greatness.

Unfortunately, a more common approach to an internal communication strategy is one that I call reactionary. A reactionary process is driven by requirements and unforeseen situations that lead to changes in policy and regulations. Imagine an organization that allows marketing and product development to be handled in the same way. Customers would have to ask for new products before they could be invented. Conversely, what would it look like if an organization deliberately focused on an internal communication strategy instilling core values, such as an entrepreneurial spirit, unquestionably high standards, discipline, results orientation, adaptability, cross-communication, safety, and “The Golden Rule”? How much better would they be? If maintaining organizational core competency is vital to an organization’s long-term success, then why not spend more energy and effort on building and maintaining the organizational communication plan?

An additional point of consideration is something I refer to as the “golden threads”.  Golden threads are the essence of core values, vision, and goals of connected organizations; by connected I mean organizations that are horizontal and vertical to each other.  There is an old saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, by weaving these golden threads into the core values the entire supply chain is strengthened and horizontally and vertically aligned.   When the values and objectives of all levels of the logistical supply chain (tactical, operational, and strategic) are synchronized there becomes a collected unity of effort.  A unity of effort is a military term sometimes used to describe something called a force multiplier, which loosely defined is a capability that when employed significantly increases the potential of that force and thus enhances the probability of accomplishing the mission.

Internal Marketing Plan

Line of Effort

Critical Tasks

Measure of effectiveness

End State

Entrepreneurial spirit (Innovative problem solving before it is a problem; critical and creative thinking) – Minimize the number of policies and make them clear – The number of phone calls or emails asking for guidance Empowered, independently thinking team members
Unquestionably high standards
(“Good enough” is the enemy of greatness)
– Relentless, high quality standards- Internal QA/QC section (see yourself) – Reduced number of customer complaints Attention to detail ensuring all departments pass no-notice inspections
Culture of discipline
(People, thoughts, actions)
– Simple and clear policies- Clear standard operating procedures – Reduced number of reportable incidents People at the right place at the right time doing the right things
Results oriented
(Mission accomplishment)
– Simple and clear policies- Clear standard operating procedures – Reduced backlog- Increased volume Increased customer satisfaction
Adaptability
(Flexible, agile, adaptive)
– Empowered decision makers- Clear policies which encourage flexibility – Reduced amount of backlogged equipment- Increased volume of equipment Increased customer satisfaction
Cross-communication
(Information is power only when disseminated)
– Provide full disclosure- Simple and clear policies

– Clear standard operating procedures

– Reduced number of customer inquires Increased customer satisfaction
Culture of safety – Safety messages on display thought organization- Simple and clear policies

– Clear standard operating procedures

– Reduced number of safety-related incidents Safe work environment
Culture of “The Golden Rule” – Posted Equal Opportunity messages- Simple and clear policies – Reduced number of Equal Opportunity violations Warm and inviting work environment

In my opinion, the mission statement is important, and it is important that the entire organization read and believe in the mission statement. Leaders should focus equally on both the internal and external communication strategies, shaping customer and employee perceptions of the organization. I believe that customers are drawn equally to great organizations, as they are to mediocre organizations who market or advertise well. As I prepare to write my next mission statement, it will be with the intention of “advertising” it to my entire organization. I believe that it is equally important that employees, customers, and stakeholders all believe in the quality of the organization.

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John Eric RichardsonLTC John “Eric” Richardson is a United States Army logistician with over twenty years of experience leading, training, and mentoring at all levels of Army command. Eric has held the following positions: Army staff, brigade chief of staff, battalion chief of staff, battalion support operations officer, deputy brigade support operations officer, petroleum and water branch chief, company command, assistant brigade supply officer, supply and services officer, platoon leader, and aircraft crew chief. As a logistics officer, Eric has managed all facets of end-to-end domestic and international logistical operations – and is responsible for the leading, planning, integration, and directing all facets of sustainment activities (supply and services, transportation, maintenance, human resources, financial management, health services support, and operational contracting support) at the tactical, operational, and strategic level.

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The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as official or as reflecting the views of the Department of the Army or the U.S. Department of Defense.  Names of commercial manufacturers or products included are incidental only, and inclusion does not imply endorsement by the author, the Department of the Army, or the U.S. Department of Defense.

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