Strategy. You hear a lot about strategy in organizations. Strategy, when used within an organization, can be a key to success. When not done right an organization can stagnate, stay in one place. So, what does strategy look like when it’s working well? Having a shared mission and vision are the essential building blocks when undertaking any kind of strategic planning within an organization.

Shared vision and mission statement are a must when beginning strategic conversations. This, however, is often easier said than done. Most organizations have mission statements that define what they do. Many organizations have vision statements that describe where they want to go. But, having those statements and having all stakeholders buy into the shared mission and vision to then undergo strategy is not something that can be taken for granted. Too often, mission and vision statements simply “sit on the shelf” and are not integrated into the daily life of organizations.
Consider this case: A Student Affairs unit wanted to undertake strategic planning. The Student Affairs area had an articulated vision and a mission. Key stakeholders were invited to participate in strategy building and forums were held with key constituents to gather feedback. It all sounds like it’s working, yes? Then the wheels came off the train. Students were upset. Alumni were upset. Administrators were pointing fingers at one another. What happened? All the right elements were in place to begin a successful strategy building. But, the strategic planning was dead in the water.

The problem was in mission and vision. While the written and adopted vision and mission statements said one thing, what was unfolding in the actions of the administrators was something entirely different. The actual mission of the senior decision maker was one he never articulated and never gathered buy in. An assumption was made that his idea was the right idea and things just started moving ahead. One year later, after attempting to move ahead, everything came to a stop as alumni started their own conversations and students stopped working with administrators as a cloud of distrust moved over the entire Student Affairs unit.
This is an example of the importance of a true shared vision and mission. When things go “off the rails” in your organization, whether it’s during strategy building or everyday business, take a look at the mission and vision. Is your organization true to its mission and vision? If not, solving that problem is Step 1.