What is it & Why Do It?
Creating a Purpose, Vision & Values document can be difficult but it cuts right to the core of what your business does, why it does it and how it reflects this in the values it upholds. Having this high-level overview of your company creates a guiding star for all to follow. It makes crystal clear what your mission is, where everyone is going and to what ends. Ideally this will be created near the beginning of your adventure but there is no harm revising or clarifying these in greater detail at a later time. If everyone has a clear understanding of what you stand for as a company it sheds light on decisions that are made and their reasons. Values in particular are an incredibly powerful tool to align your company culture internally and externally with a belief system. They guide hiring decisions, product choices, marketing messages, business strategy, internal collaboration and roles. Almost everything!
Your company should take these values seriously and show this through action. Of course, values aren’t fixed forever. Sometimes it’s useful to reassess these and align them to how your company has developed. Generally speaking if you can get these right at the beginning it makes decisions, especially tough decisions, a lot easier. Making sure your entire team knows, understands and contributes to these values creates your culture and your brand. Everyone needs to feel a sense of higher purpose with what they spend their time doing and this contributes to a sense of belonging, motivation and excellence. The WHY is even more important than the HOW.
Who’s Involved & What’s The Setup?
A Purpose, Vision and Values document should be done with the founding team that launched the company. Preferably early on in it’s development. Involving a small team offers diversity and contrasting viewpoints that are important to embrace as a team. Taking the time to come together, debate and ultimately create your purpose, vision and values will set the tone for years to come. So take the time to get this right. You should allow around 60-90 minutes to allow for group discussion. After it’s creation make sure it's widely available to your new team members as you grow.
Firstly you want to think about the biggest of questions - why you are doing what you are doing? The purpose of your company. Why do you want to bring it into existence in the first place? What big problems are you trying to solve? Try and keep this focused and to the point. It’s ok to have a variety of ideas but boil this down into a sentence or two you can all agree on.
- Next, what is your company vision? How are you going to make your purpose (the why) into reality? Through what means will you deliver your purpose? Break these down into short, tactical nuggets that you can refer to later on. The ‘how’ can often change as time passes as you understand your customers more, but the why will largely remain the same. Try and brainstorm a variety of how’s and then whittle this down to only the most relevant and compelling.
- Lastly, it’s up to you to explore what values and belief system you want to uphold in your company. Think about the values you admire in your own life, in your work style and your social engagements. How do you want people to feel? How do you want people to be treated? How can you inspire people to do the best work? Write down all the ways you can think of and capture them all. Sometimes it’s useful to take 10-15 minutes alone and quietly brainstorm these ideas on your own first.
- Share your values with one another. Cluster these into areas that share the same ideas. This should offer a clearer picture of the topics that are most important to the group.
Talk through each one of these ideas and try and come up with 1 or 2 values that reflect these. If one specific value stands out and everyone agrees, adopt it! If there are conflicting statements debate them and try and get to the real meat of the idea. Once you are in agreement write it down and move onto the next.
You should aim for at least 4 values and probably no more than 10. Try and avoid one word values as this can lead to ambiguity. Keep them to the point, actionable and obvious.
As time goes on take the time to reevaluate your Purpose, Vision and Values. Have you kept to these? What has worked? What hasn’t?
Distribute around, stick on the wall, use to evaluate new hires, etc. This is a lifeblood of your company and the culture you perpetuate. Remind people of your values through your actions.
Although the how (vision) is important to achieving your goals the higher level why (purpose) forms the solid backbone of your company and guides you through all of your decisions.
Getting a diverse founding team to contribute to this exercise will provide a wider spectrum of opinion.
Take the time to create these in the early stages of your company. It will pay off as you grow.
Spread the love and share this document around. Make sure people know, inside and out what you stand for, how you roll, how you hire, why you do what you do and try not to let these slip. A great culture has strong internal values, vision and purpose. How these are reflected in your actions solidifies these values for all to see.