If you’re a software engineer, MVC probably makes you think of the Model, View, Controller pattern of system design. But I want to talk about:
You have to think about these things, in this specific sequence, because each is defined in light of the previous. I’ve been on teams with both good and bad cultures, and you know what? An amazing culture leads to so many fulfilling interactions, increased velocity, and enriching teamwork. Your mission and values are the way to get there.
What is a mission statement? Well, let’s look at some…
… is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.
… is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
… to live in the world where one day you can feel like you’re home anywhere & not in a home, but truly home, where you belong.
Improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.
Give good the advantage.
Your mission statement should succinctly define your reason to exist as a group. It should give the reader an immediate idea of the space in which your organization operates, what it does and doesn’t strive to do. It should be broad enough to allow for growth and expansion, but not so broad that it makes your purpose nebulous.
Companies spend way too much time trying to explain what they do. Instead, they should be focusing on telling people, why they do what they do. Having a strong, concise, and easily grasped mission statement sets the groundwork for your employees, partners, and customers to know with whom they are working.
Your mission statement is the groundwork and helps establish the earliest seeds of what your corporate values should be.
Values aren’t laws and they’re not rules. Values, as defined by BussinessDictionary are
The operating philosophies or principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with its customers, partners, and shareholders.
Values are how we hope to work and interact when we’re operating at our best. They should be aspirational, but they must also be real and sustainable.
My team at Chronicle has 4 values… Passion, Authenticity, Scrappiness, and Trailblazer. I could dive into each one of these in detail… but, do I need to? As you look at those words, do you get an idea for how we interact with each other? We are a group of people who absolutely love what we do. We do our best to be transparent and direct with each other. We want to get stuff done, we don’t seek perfection, but we aim to do the job well. We want to do things that others have never tried. We learn from our failures and celebrate our successes, but in the end, we keep going forward.
As a group, we spent a lot of time coming up with those 4 values. They weren’t something I crafted and handed down, but rather the early team came to a decision that these traits described the group of which they wanted to be a part. Now you could argue that they are vague. But if we view them in light of Chronicle’s mission statement: Give good the advantage, it’s clear that we’re trying to operate from a position of helpfulness and empowerment. Being authentic doesn’t mean being cold and direct, boastful, or selfish, it means, being considerate, honest, and transparent. We want to do the right thing, and hold ourselves accountable to what that means.
Values, along with your mission statement, help create a sense of identity, and with that, you have the earliest scaffold on which to build a culture.
I’ve read it so many times, “People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad bosses”. And that’s true. But I’ll add on to that statement, Companies with bad cultures, tolerate bad bosses.
are the standards we live by. They are the shared expectations and rules that guide behavior of people within social groups. Cultural norms are learned and reinforced from parents, friends, teachers and others while growing up in a society.
For example, if self-serving or selfish behavior is tolerated within an organization, that becomes a toxic cultural norm. It becomes expected. People then start adjusting their interactions to avoid it, collaboration suffers, deadlines are missed, motivation is lost. Have you heard people say things got political? That’s a huge warning sign! Have you worked in an environment like this? How did it make you feel? These traits are like a virus, they infect others — pretty soon, the entire organization is dysfunctional.
How do we prevent those toxic behaviors from taking root? We need to make sure there is a strong consensus and shared acceptance of our mission and values. Really, that’s it. Your mission and values set up the scaffolding for a culture, but you don’t create a culture overnight. You live it. You breathe it. You show it in how you represent yourself. It starts at the top, and everyone should be held accountable to that same standard — from the CEO to the interns.
A mission statement should always be in the back of your mind, and your values should be at the front. They are the principles that made someone want to come work with your team. When people are acting unfaithfully to those values, they should be called out — not in a hostile way, just in a way that reminds them that we aim to be better than that. Afterall, they should know those values too. In fact, people should learn about your mission statement and values, long before they’re sitting at a desk.
I interviewed with a company many years ago. They dedicated an hour of interviews, just to focus on their corporate values. I thought this was an amazing idea. Before I went on site, they shared their values with me, and asked me to study them. Why don’t all companies do this? Why do you only hear of a company’s values after you start working there. It was a brilliant and game changing experience that gave meaning to the term: “culture fit interview”.
Everyone knows interviews are expensive for both the candidate and the company. Seeing a company put this much emphasis on sharing their mission, values, and culture made me really view them as something special… even years later.
That’s the power of having a strong culture. It impacts everyone from their first interaction with an organization, to the last. If you treat people fairly and in alignment with your mission, values, and culture, they’ll leave respecting you and your team.
Our mission helps set the philosophical purpose for why our company exists and also sets the tone for our values. Our values define who we aim to be when we’re operating at our best. Our culture is how we live those values day-to-day. While we may fail to live up to those values at times, we should always know when we do. We should inspire the desire to be better, because the power of a positive culture is rocket fuel for success.