Our son Mitch is considering a career in the military so as part of his college exploration Denise and I took him for a visit to the United States Naval Academy. If you’ve ever visited one of the U.S. military academies you know just how impressive they are. They are full of tradition and pride, with a long history of developing young men and women who faithfully devote their lives to protecting our country.
What I also found impressive about the USNA was its clear mission and their obvious commitment to it. As you might remember from previous posts, mission answers the key question “why does an organization exist?’ The USNA has answered this question by stating:
“The mission of the Naval Academy is to develop midshipmen morally, mentally, and physically; and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of Naval service and have the potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship, and government.”
It’s crystal clear why the USNA exists by reading this statement.
But it’s not just having a clear and concise statement of mission that’s critical for an organization. Like the Naval Academy, it’s even more important that the entire organization’s centered on its mission, that every facet, every resource, every person’s aligned to the mission and committed to making it a reality.
As a matter of fact, as we experienced in our day visit to the USNA, any person who experiences an organization that’s committed to and aligned with its mission should be able to articulate the mission without ever reading their mission statement because it should ooze out of every part and person of the organization.
And when that happens, as it has at the USNA, a mission statement truly becomes a mission.43.928283-85.286682
Mission statements are normally expressed in words. But yesterday I had the opportunity to articulate SpringHill’s mission through a drawing supplemented by words not used in our actual statement.
As you can see from the photo I’m no artist but my lack of talent didn’t diminish the power of this exercise. The power came in the challenge of thinking through how to communicate our mission in a drawing as opposed to the words of our statement. This 20 minute process provided me a different perspective on a mission we’ve had for decades.
During the act of illustrating I began to see the role the SpringHill Experience plays in the life of a young person in a different way. Having a mission statement that’s often referred to and memorized can lead to a bit of staleness – illustrating it made it fresh again.
Which led me to, once again, affirm the importance of our mission and the need to assure its continuing effectiveness.
The exercise also provides an alternative way to communicate our mission to our key constituency groups by providing them with a fresh perspective as well.
So on my “list of ideas we need to do” from this week with the Chicago 7 (a peer learning group of CEO’s from similar camps) I’ve added “#15. Have our marketing team create a quality illustration of our mission.”
By the way our peer learning group’s meeting this week’s at the very cool The Leadership Studio at Muskoka Woods in Ontario Canada. It’s CEO and a close friend, John McAuley, is a part of our group and facilitating our time together. If you and your organization need a place for a retreat where you can do some great work you need to check out The Leadership Studio. I guarantee you’ll come back with more than just a drawing of your mission statement.43.928283-85.286682