Demystifying Vision, Mission, and Purpose for Sustained GrowthOct 01, 2023
Business success isn't solely about the bottom line. Many entrepreneurs kickstart companies and quickly see a surge in profits. Their ventures thrive for a stretch—five, ten, or even fifteen years. However, a shift occurs, and they face declining revenues, departing customers, and a loss of key people.
The core issue? A lack of genuine purpose.
Why is purpose so important?
As I found myself binge-watching "For All Mankind," a series that delves into the 'what if' scenario of the space race continuing beyond the moon, a striking parallel to the entrepreneurial journey emerged.
The space race's purpose transcended beyond the conquest of outer space. It was a duel of ideologies, a manifestation of the core values each nation cherished.
Kennedy's mission, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), committed NASA to a lunar landing before the decade's end. But in this what-if docuseries, it's one of many BHAGs stacked one upon another to serve a single purpose: win the space race.
Kennedy's BHAG was also a constellation of smaller goals: designing a moon-bound rocket, landing astronauts on the moon, ensuring their survival in suits, orchestrating their safe return, and developing a computer to pinpoint the moon's location.
These smaller goals align with the Metronomics 3-Year Highly Achievable Goals (3HAGs) framework — the bridge between where you are now and your BHAG.
What stood out prominently in the space race was the concept of stacking one mission or BHAG upon the other: the first person into space, the first human on the moon, establishing a base on the moon, and then setting sights on Mars.
Each BHAG was a stepping stone to the next, creating a continuum of ambition and achievement. This sequential unfolding of BHAGs kept the momentum alive, the teams motivated, and the entire nation engaged.
This is a pivotal lesson for companies.
Often, businesses that lack a real sense of purpose find themselves in a quagmire after accomplishing their initial mission. They reach their goal, and then a sense of aimlessness pervades. The energy dissipates, the focus blurs, and the drive to push forward diminishes. They don't know what to do next because there isn't a subsequent BHAG to strive for.
Companies with a well-articulated vision and a series of stacked BHAGs don't face this dilemma. They accomplish one mission and immediately set their sights on the next. The vision propels them forward, the core values keep them grounded, and the successive BHAGs fuel continuous growth and innovation. Each achievement is not a destination but a launchpad for the next grand endeavor. This is the essence of building an enduring and evolving company.
The Collins-Porras Vision Framework
Many CEOs and business owners I speak to are confused by the meaning of vision, mission, and purpose. But when they get it, their eyes light up. I hope that the rest of this article will help clarify how to think about your company's vision, purpose, core values, and missions.
The Collins-Porras Vision Framework helps simplify things. Your Vision encompasses three key elements: Your Core Values and Beliefs, Your Purpose, and Your Mission.
Your Core Values and Beliefs are the system of guiding principles your business holds dear, your Purpose is the fundamental reason your company exists, and your Mission is a bold or compelling goal that propels your business forward.
By understanding and applying this framework, the abstract becomes tangible, making it easier to align your strategies with your business's essence and long-term aspirations, thereby setting a clear trajectory toward sustained growth and success.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, what stood out prominently in For All Mankind was the concept of stacking one mission or BHAG upon the other. When I speak to a stuck business owner, they often reflect on their past success and can't understand why they're stuck now. While their business excelled at solving a problem for a period, the world around them has evolved—I see this in many industries, particularly tech companies—and now they're becoming irrelevant.
The problem is their business lacks a purpose and, therefore, no future mission. Purpose-driven companies stack on BHAG upon the other to pursue their ultimate purpose.
For example, I worked with a manufacturing company whose purpose is: "Stopping the world safely." They manufacture brake fluid for some of the world's top brands, giving Formula 1 drivers the confidence to push their machines to the limits and families peace of mind their cars will stop quicker than Verstappen is off the mark. But their industry is evolving, and they're already thinking about their next BHAG in a world without hydraulic braking.
In contrast, companies without a purpose quickly drift toward tactics-driven strategy.
The same applies a level down. When pursuing your BHAG or 10+ year mission, your 3 HAG keeps iterating toward that goal. It's akin to climbing a mountain and establishing basecamp along the way.
As I said, a Vision isn't essential to making money but is fundamental to building a valuable, enduring business. Companies with a clear vision benefit from the following:
- The basis for extraordinary team effort
- Having a context for strategic and tactical decision-making
- Cohesion, teamwork, and community
- Having a foundation to evolve beyond its founders
Navigating the entrepreneurial landscape requires a clear vision...
"A sound strategy is impossible without a clear vision." – Jim Collins
The Collins-Porras Vision Framework simplifies this task, breaking it down into a Core Ideology and an Envisioned Future. By adopting this framework, you solidify your business's foundation and set a clear, ambitious goal to strive for. It's a straightforward yet powerful approach to propel your business beyond stagnation toward enduring success and growth.