I had some quick thoughts on how a good mission statement can help.
Challenge: The absence of leadership
This is one of the things that I experience regularly. The perceived absence of leadership. If you are an individual in a formal leadership position, this is your job, to provide leadership. However, it is also to create an environment where leadership can emerge. If I were to rephrase the job of a leader, it is to create more leaders. If I was in a formal leadership position at a department I would use the mission statement in EVERY conversation I had throughout my day. This brings clarity to what we are trying to do at said department. No matter if I speak to a peer, a development team, an HR representative or even someone from a different department. I would say it is even more important when communicating outside of your department. Focusing slightly more internally, this will help create alignment around what we are doing, and how we want to do things. If each member of an organization knows the purpose of their existence they will be more comfortable making decisions on their own, creating circumstances for distributed decision-making. With clarity comes alignment, with alignment you can promote autonomy.
Challenge: The poor collaboration between IT and “business”
The second of the big three is the relationship between IT and the rest of the organization, from here-on referred to as the business. The relationship I usually see is a one-way deal. The business comes with a request and expect IT to just deliver it without any questions asked. If you ask questions you will get a 5-minute explanation on why the question is invalid or hard to answer, when it would probably have taken 30s to give a sufficient answer that would have made people understand. A relationship of this nature is further fueled by lack of clarity. The business doesn’t understand the nature of the problems they have, thus how they can leverage IT in a partnership to overcome those problems, or even get new perspectives that render the problems obsolete. By using a good mission statement, we focus on the nature of that relationship and help clarify how we want it to be. Using it to invite for a collaborative understanding of how we, together, can achieve what we believe is best for the company in our pursuit to reach our vision.
Challenge: The inability to reason around business value
Seemingly it is very difficult to talk about business value, since it can sometimes be intangible. Not all departments work purely with direct revenue. This, however, doesn’t excuse us from trying to understand the business value of the work we do. The inability to reason around the actual business value a department provides is nothing short than a severe lack of understanding of your own purpose. I’m not suggesting here that it is our responsibility as an IT department to clarify the purpose of all other departments we happen to work with. BUT, since we are not able to maximize our own contribution without it, we can use our mission statement to TAKE responsibility. Insisting on having a seat at the table to provide additional perspectives on how WE, together, can provide the most value in the long-term. By understanding how each business unit is contributing to our shared vision, together we can help the business understand how they can leverage IT to do their part in the most effective and efficient manner.