Clear Company Vision, Mission, Goals and Values Are Critical to Business Success


How Vision, Mission, Goals and Values Are Relevant

“Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” – Japanese proverb

It is difficult to start this book with a discussion of vision, mission, goals, and values. I say that because many times these concepts are fuzzy and poorly communicated. They are viewed as a waste of time and a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that nobody really acts upon.But I also feel that what follows will be lost it isn’t put on a firm solid foundation. And that’s what establishing good vision, mission, and values do for an organization. Basically “if you don’t have a destination, you’ll never get there”.

In some ways talking about Mission, Vision, and Values is a little bit like starting on a long hike with a bunch of Boy Scouts. You’re in the parking lot, its dusty, you pull your backpacks out of the cars, you’re getting ready to go. Everybody’s excited about leaving. Everybody has in the back of their minds what it is that they hope to experience. Trying to verbalize at such a moment in time why each scout was on the trip, what they hope to experience, and how to behave safely or what to do in case of an accident is really boring stuff. Try this with a bunch young teenage boys or girls and you know exactly what I mean. Working environments aren’t much different. But the Boy Scout motto is to be prepared. So that is exactly what we’re going to do at the start of this book.

The Importance of a Company Having Vision, Mission, and Values Statements

If well laid out, the vision, mission, values, objectives and strategy for an organization define in five different ways why it exists. It is as powerful as that. And we need multiple views because like it or not the reasons why a business exists are not clean. They are very messy. There are times when what we wish to do to support our vision conflicts with the values that we wish to abide by. For example, some of the consumer recalls in the 1990s related faulty drugs foods and toys clearly brought forward conflicts that companies had between their objectives to make shareholders a quarterly return and their values expressing their commitment to their community and all customers. Having these well laid out for an organization allows an open and transparent discussion amongst individuals on what is the best path forward. Johnson & Johnson for example made the short term expensive decision to recall their products in one such famous example of living by the company values when the choice comes between values and objectives. This is particularly important because we’re going to talk about combining the roles of business development, marketing, technical and intellectual property into a seamless transparent working environment. Individuals will likely have different supervisors. In their groups’ metrics and therefore their own pay may be contingent on carryout objectives and strategy. If you look at their objectives in isolation from one another it could result in conflict with the company’s overall values, vision and mission. This will be discussed later in this book. It’s important that these teams know what the vision, mission, values are so they can look for win-win ways to define their projects and their working relationships in a way that achieves exactly what the company and individuals desire. James Collins goes into this is great detail in his book “Beyond Entrepreneurship”. The Johnson & Johnson view is best expressed in the book “General Johnson Said….”

Company and Group Visions

Visions come in all sizes shapes and forms. Our intent here is not to look at them all in detail. There are many consulting companies that will be happy to help an organization create and refine a vision that is best for them. What we want to do is look at some examples to show the elements that are best when one is looking for integrated business, technical, and intellectual property management.

Various Types of Company Vision Statements

One of the most successful investment companies, Bridgewater Associates, LP set as their goals “to produce excellent results, meaningful work, and meaningful relationships through radical truth and transparency” under the leadership of Ray Dalio. This vision has served to guide the company to financial success for over 30 years, through good times and bad. It is a testament to getting the vision statement right so that it focuses work efforts, and how they are to be carried out, through many economic cycles.

At Hallmark cards their vision is stated as belief statements. There are five of them. The first one is that “our products and service must enrich people’s lives and enhance their relationships”. The second is that “creativity and quality – in our concepts of products and services- are essential to our success”. Third, that “the people of Hallmark are our company’s most valuable resource”. Fourth, that “distinguished financial performance is a must, not as an end in itself, but as a means to accomplish our broader mission”, and that fifth, “our private ownership must be preserved”. These statements when constructed were related to a paper greeting card company, but because of their positive stance, they have served the company well though it is his move forward into the Internet era.

Flexible Packaging Technical Center Vision Statement

In contrast to written statements, a technical group in James Rivers Flexible Packaging Technical Center in the 1980s took different approach. Its vision shown in the “Flexible Packaging Technical Center Vision Statement” figure. What is a striking here is the vision was not put in words but rather in a picture.

The graphic is clearly a sign of the 1980’s when improving quality and most important service was an organizational change that the group was trying to make. To do so required cooperation of many people and adoption of new ways of doing things. Just as the Hallmark word vision above described for people a behavior that was expected, this pure pictorial vision accomplished the same thing. It also had the advantage in that the particular region where the operation was located there are a large number of non-native speaking employees. To them the picture spoke much more richly than words ever could.

Other examples of vision statements come from some of the name brands in the world. For example at General Electric (GE) the corporate vision is ‘We bring good things to life’. In another example the Ford Motor Company vision is ‘to become the world’s leading consumer company for automotive products and services’. Clearly these both sound lofty. But his many US consumers know there is a big difference in the credibility of the GE vision and that of Ford and the other US car manufacturers. GE’s vision is credible and backed by the company’s performance. Ford’s vision sounds good but consumer’s experience from the infrastructure designed by management down to the dealer behavior dealing with consumers misses the mark. In order to drive consistent performance across an organization’s business, technical, and intellectual property personnel a vision will have to be inclusive, compelling, and personal. Executives down to those that the lowest level of the organization need to walk the talk.

Corporate Research Center External Vision

As a final example of vision statements we will look at the one for the Corporate Research Center of Avery Dennison Corp. in the 1990s. That vision was divided into an “outside view” and an “inside view” parts. Each part also had a word and corresponding pictorial component. It was divided so that two pictures showed what individuals outside the organization would see and experience, contrasted with that which individuals working in the environment would see and experience. .

The Research Center’s vision of what the business world outside themselves would see and experience would be “a research center that was first to commercialize innovative products processes and services with measurably higher value for customers throughout the world”. This statement was supplemented with the vision picture is shown in the “Corporate Research Center External Vision” figure.

Remembering the vision constructed in the 1990s one sees a real mix of technology everything from satellite communications to an old sailing ship. The organization felt strongly that in their environment, that of creating new office products and pressure sensitive label materials, it was a mix of old proven technology and the latest state-of-the-art solutions that would being most value to customers and the corporation’s stakeholders as well. Again this particular organization was situated in a work environment where people from many different cultures from around the world were present. In this case it was found that a short word description along with pictures most effectively communicated what the organization was about.

The second half of the research center is vision look internally. It described what the technical world was like inside their research Center and what a person in that organization would be experiencing and valuing. It would be “the ultimate high output learning network community of individuals”. This is statement was graphically represented as shown in the “Corporate Research Center Internal Vision” figure.

This picture represented a learning journey of many individuals coming and going by different means. Looking closely at the individuals and the way in which they are acting with one another gives the feeling of the organization’s networking capability. The mountaintop was a representation of “the ultimate” as opposed to a representation of “isolation”. Again the picture view of how people were to work with one another said a lot more than many, many pages of text ever could.

Corporate Research Center Internal Vision

Company and Group Missions

Mission statements tend to described in more detail what an organization is trying to do over the short term. At Hallmark, the creative advisory group described itself as “a corporate consultancy that gathers, analyzes and disseminates information of transit impact our business”. Its mission was “to identify, organize, and present pertinent information in ‘knowledge bundles’ that are quickly understood and stimulate fresh thinking”. Also included was “we strive to help clients ask the right questions rather than provide them with answers”. These statements gave participants in this group a good understanding of how to focus their energy on appropriate corporate projects and to do it in a way that was going to add value.

Another technical group, the corporate laboratory of Avery Dennison in the mid-19 90’s described its mission as “to promote and develop, commercialize and protect, both expertise and innovative technologies in an energetic and learning environment via interdependent synergistic partnerships”. It also defined “our projects: (1) range from high impact problem solving to global strategic developments, (2) Demonstrate fundamental understanding and insight, and (3) Increase ‘economic value added’ and accelerate growth for both our corporation and the global community”. Again this mission statement provides a high-level description what individuals in the organization should strive to do, what kinds of projects they should be working on, and what the outcome should be.

These vision statements there but a few examples of many mission statements that are appropriate to their respective organizations. The point to be made here is when one has many different kinds of group’s interacting towards a common goal they have to understand how to prioritize and work together to create win-win situations. Clear vision statements and clear mission statements help them know when they are in bounds and out of bounds for the Corporation. Having this insight embedded in employees and independent contractors allows new product development and new business development projects to proceed at a much faster pace.

Company and Group Goals / Objectives / Strategic Priorities

At the next level of refinement come company goals, objectives or strategic priorities. Again different consultancies will tell you that mission, vision, and values each have different meanings and purposes. There is no really right or wrong answer. What’s important is that people have a good understanding of how to behave and how to add value to corporations. Vision usually provides a long-term strategic direction and scope of work for the company and a high-level view of how to behave. The mission gives a shorter to intermediate term view of again the content and purpose of an organization and how value will be returned to the shareholders.

Characteristics of Strategic Priorities

Goals and objectives tend to be more process oriented. For corporations, Donald Sull et. al. found that managers should explicitly state a handful of actions the company must take to execute their strategy over the medium term. Strategic priorities should be forward-looking and action-oriented and should focus attention on the handful of choices that matter most to the organization’s success over the next few years. The “Characteristics of Strategic Priorities” figure provides some detail as to what this entails.

Vague Versus Concrete Strategic Priorities

Additionally, an example set of strategic priorities that were found too vague versus ones that were concrete enough to guide action and investments are shown for American Airlines and Southwest Airlines in the “Vague Versus Concrete Strategic Priorities” figure.

For technical organization three objectives usually stand out. They are: (1) commercialize an increasingly valuable stream of technologies, (2) be the most effective technical community: pick the right projects – those with the most business impact, and (3) be the most efficient technical community doing the right projects the best way – with regard to innovation, quality, service and cost. Another internally focused goal that helped Bridgewater Associates become the largest investment company was to have as a goal “learning how to fail well”. They work hard on being transparent about their mistakes and recording as principles how to avoid or mitigate such mistakes in the future.

Company Values

When it comes to values, it is walking the talk that counts. Outside the company brand image is Paramount. Maintaining consumer confidence in the brand is critically important. When the quality or safety of products is questioned companies have learned that the right strategy is to own the problem and take quick decisive corrective action and not duck the issue. In the United States consumer products companies and pharmaceutical companies have learned this lesson well and applied it thoughtfully. Again in the US are automotive corporations have yet learn the same lesson. To this day dealers still fail to take corrective action the compromises the safety of their customers for the sake of saving themselves a very few dollars. For automobile company what they publish on their websites or advertise on TV is their values is a far cry from what gets put into practice.

The Importance of Values and
Management “Living the Values”

Hallmark again provides a good example of values that guide their corporation and what they do. Their values are: (1) excellence in all we do, (2) ethical and moral conduct at all times and in all our relationships, (3) innovation in all areas of our business as a means of attaining and sustaining leadership, and (4) corporate social responsibility to Kansas City and to each community in which we operate. Hallmark states that they use these beliefs and values to guide their business strategies, corporate behavior, and their relationships with suppliers, customers, communities, and each other. Not surprisingly for a greeting card company, Hallmark goes on to describe excellence in a very prosaic manner it follows: At best excellence is an aspiration, an attitude, a pursuit, a way of life. Excellence is all of us working together, aspiring to the fullest of our potential; always in pursuit of higher standards-determined to do everything we do somehow better than it has ever been done before. Excellence is found in the caring, in the trying, and in the doing. It is our objective. We seek it with dedication. It is a hallmark of this corporation. This example of values shows how when one looks at the opportunity for R&D, business development and intellectual property to cooperate with one another, when conflicts come up, there is practical guidance from whether or not to sue an individual for an IP violation, how to approach tough negotiations, or how to decide what’s appropriate and inappropriate to put on a greeting card.

General Electric’s R&D leadership states their values over the 10 years have been: (1) integrity is number one. We talk about it, we talk about it, we talk about it! (2) Boundaryless behavior. We work at breaking down chimneys, breaking down barriers in the research laboratory, between the research lab, between marketing and sales – everywhere. (3) Hating bureaucracy. We take bureaucracy out of wherever we can find. (4) Relishing change. Desire to change, to move faster. (5) Global brains. Technology is now being developed all over the world, and we must be able to tap into the streams of technology everywhere. (6) No NIH. Take a good idea from where ever you find it. (7) Speed. Recognize that speed to market is more important than pursuing the goals of research.

These General Electric values clearly provide good insight to business people, technical people, and intellectual property people working together. If one thinks of the stereotypes normally associated with each of those roles and envision the behavior when prosecuting a patent application, you can see how important understanding these values could be to improving the performance and shortening the time of the application process. These values also speak to where to find technology and how to most appropriately use it.

There were six values in use by the central research group Avery Dennison Corp. in the 1990s. They were an extension of the corporation’s values which were: integrity, service, collaboration or teamwork, creativity / visionary / innovation, excellence, and global community. These were selected by a community process that involved creation, upgrading, auditing, and agreement upon by all members of the organization.

A more targeted group of values characterized James River Corporation during its times of change in the late 1980s. It’s 10 values were: mutual trust, honesty in dealings with customer, suppliers and team members, sense of urgency, action oriented people, teamwork, hard-working, teasing and having fun, openness to surface and discuss issues, willingness to be creative and bring out creativity and others, embrace change, optimistic, and promptness. This listing sets the stage for our next discussion on how our values can be organized, ordered and selected so that they bring out the best in an organization.

IdeaConnections Corporation has values that guide its relationships between clients, employees, and organization. Regarding the IdeaConnection clients: “Our Clients are members of our extended family. Their success is our success; their failure is our failure.” Regarding corporate viability: “It is every employee’s responsibility to work towards maintaining the viability of the organization.” “Both employees and shareholders have a right to benefit from the profitability of our company.” “Successful, sustainable growth of our company depends on the continuous growth of all employees.”

At Bridgewater Associates, the values were shared with employees via a narrative, vs. words. Their values description was “a community in which you could always have the right and obligation to make sense of things in a process for working yourselves through disagreements – i.e., a real, functioning idea meritocracy. You are to think, not follow – while recognizing that you can be wrong and that you will have weaknesses – and the organizational will help you get the most likely best answers, even if you personally don’t believe that there the best answers. You are to have radical open-mindedness and an idea meritocracy that will take you from being trapped in your own heads, to having access to the best minds in the world, to help you make the best decisions for you and our community. The company wants to help you all struggle well and evolve to getting the most out of life.” Adding to this Bridgewater Associates values “Believability Weighted Decision Making” a means to weight votes or positons in a decision making process to favor those votes or positions coming from the most credible (knowledgeable and experienced with respect to the decision at hand) voices. Thus the two values, idea meritocracy and radical open-mindedness were explained in “outcome” terminology so employees could see if they were living their values or not.

Values Hierarchy

Not all values are created equal. There is a time and a place for everything. Most important is that the values are a reflection and an extension of the company’s vision and mission. The above examples show the variation that can be present in values. The examples also show many common elements are typical in most US corporations striving to grow and improve themselves through innovation and sustained protected profits.

Values in a startup organizations are justifiably some different from those in large established corporations. Successful entrepreneurial behavior requires action and trust, while successful corporate behavior implies responsibility and alignment with controls. Entrepreneurial speed demands agility, experimentation, adaptation, and rapid response in order to be first to market. Corporate initiatives involve analysis, review, and willingness sacrifice speed for thoroughness. Urgency often characterizes entrepreneurs. Collaboration or teamwork often characterizes corporations.

One of the best ways to organize one’s thinking of values was explored by Dr. Brian Hall in nearly 1970s. Later when he was at Santa Clara University in California he validated his work. By the late 1990s he developed his “values technology” by organizing over a hundred different values onto a matrix that split out values related to achieving goals and those related to means or actions. A scaling of the values related to an individual’s or an organization’s maturity.

There were four high level phases of maturity an organization might fall into. The first phase is shown in the “Values Stage Map” figure as “surviving”. The second phase related to belonging. The third phase is self-initiating and the fourth phase is interdependence.

Values Stage Map

Useful for individuals and organizations was to take a questionnaire that gave insight into the values the person or an organization possessed. Software would highlight on the values matrix those that had the most meaning.

The reason the values look different for various organizations is that organizations appropriately operate at different levels of maturity. Organizations like United States Army operate at the surviving level and are authoritarian in their approach. To do otherwise would be inappropriate in war situations. Other organizations are more paternalistic, so one finds often than in communication values areas you move up to managing and facilitating. Corporate R&D groups tend to be more collaborative, possessing values at the servant to visionary levels. As mentioned above values across for small startups are different from large corporations.

This matrix provides a way to explain differences in values and see which are most appropriate to adopt for a specific organization. Experiments have shown that it is important for R&D organizations to adopt values that are in the middle of the matrix. Too low, and creativity is stifled or at least not supported by the values. You can also set them to high. In this case they are too lofty and not appropriate to delivering bottom-line results to a corporation. This table also allows for industry-specific differences to show up. Computer games, telecommunications, hospitals, airlines, and electric utilities all would adopt appropriately different values even though at the level of going from authoritarian through to visionary they might end up in the in the middle spot.

If the foregoing seems to complex, an alternative is shown in the “Simplified Listing of Values“ figure. Instead of hundreds to choose from, this is a simple list of 25 and as such it requires no software to implement. It’s a matter of people force-ranking them from one to 25 and then picking the top few to live by. Having a management team or small groups within organizations discuss choices often times brings quick alignment on key values that the organization should adopt and live by.

Sources, References and Selected Bibliographic Information

1. “Flexible Packaging Technical Center Vision Statement”, circa 1988, James River Corporation.
2. “Corporate Research Center External Vision”, circa 1995, Avery Dennison Corporation
3. “Corporate Research Center Internal Vision”, circa 1995, Avery Dennison Corporation
4. “An R&D Organizations Positioning on a Values Stage Map”, adapted from Values Technology, Brian Hall,
5. “A Simplified Listing of Values”, circa 1990, James River Corporation, Managing Personal Growth Series
6. “Turning Strategy Into Results”, by Donald Sull, Stefano Turconi, Charles Sull, and James Yoder, MIT Sloan Management Review Magazine, Sept. 2017.
7. “Creating a world class innovation infrastructure –lessons from the best of the best”, by Joff Wild, IAM Blog, 17 Jan 2018.
8. “Swim with the Sharks without being Eaten Alive”, by Harvey Mackay, William Morrow & Co., 1988.
9. “Six Steps of Mission Planning”, workshop by Afterburner,, 2013.
10. “Beyond Entrepreneurship”, by James Collins and William Lazier, Prentice Hall, 1992.
11. “General Johnson Said…”, by Philip Hofmann, Luery, Marks & Strasser Inc., 1971.
12. “Idea Connections Company Overview”, Brochure by Idea Connection Systems, 1997.