July 12, 2016

New Mission/Vision? Why Communicators Should Take the Lead

Over the past few years, we’ve seen many health systems across the nation either modify or completely rewrite their mission/vision and values (MVV) framework. Whether it’s the result of a merger or acquisition, a new CEO or just a new direction for the organization, there are a number of trends that are pushing this renewed contemplation of MVV.

The good news is that for whatever the reason, if done right, a refreshed MVV framework can have a profound impact on your organization.

However, if given the proper elixir of adult beverages, many seasoned healthcare marketers will confess that creating a new mission/vision and values framework is akin to a six-month root canal.

These fears and trepidations are well founded. We’re talking about charting the future and purpose of an entire organization. With so much at stake, that process might be challenging…to a degree.

But from our experience, many health system leaders recount their mission/vision and values experience as meeting after meeting to build “consensus” with every constituency and special interest in the organization having their say.

These wannabe wordsmiths pick away and tack on language.  The end result is a bulky quasi-sentence/paragraph, totally void of any compelling meaning that nobody remembers unless they pass a graying, tattered mission/vision and values poster in the break room.

But like I said, there’s good news to be found if you are starting down a new mission/vision and values path.

The good news is that while it’s going to be hard work, you can avoid having the results become nothing more than a word scramble that goes to your employee handbook to die.

You might even craft a framework that changes the very trajectory of your organization forever. That’s not a bad legacy for a few months of work.

Here are two key takeaways to get you there:

1. You have to take the lead.

This might go against your professional protective instincts, but lets face it, you’re going to be involved in a new mission/vision and values framework one way or another. You might as well take as much ownership as you can. Other colleagues in the C-Suite are likely to run from the project. This is your chance to fill that vacuum and have more control of your organization’s destiny.

In my experience, the strongest MVV frameworks have come from a small committee that includes not much more than the CEO, the Chief Marketing Officer, and HR.

The earlier you take the lead, the more say you have in. When Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells was asked why he should have so much say in signing new players, he replied: “Look, if I have to cook the breakfast, then I get to pick the ingredients.”

The mission/vision and values framework is a crucial part of your organization’s brand platform. It influences your brand/service promise. It reflects the genuine persona you need to present in your marketplace in order to earn patient trust. In short, you will have to live with the MVV framework more than many in your organization. You’re cooking the breakfast. You get to pick the ingredients.

You might have to make a strong case with your CEO about why you should lead this initiative. What follows will help you close the deal.

2. Consensus kills compelling words.

While plenty of strategic thinking and cultural factors come into play, the end product of the MVV framework is words.  MVV is a message. It’s a rallying cry. It’s a tool to guide and inspire. You rarely hear the phrase “They are amazing writers.” Compelling writing comes from a singular voice that strongly connects with many people.

Inspiration is like a knockout left hook in boxing. It comes quickly, and it is unexpected. It hits hard and without hesitation. Committees breed hesitation…and lots and lots of commas. And commas are the death rattle of compelling prose.

Take the mission for example. Your mission is your purpose. It should inspire those that work inside your halls. Committees create laundry list missions like this:

The mission of Health System USA is to deliver exceptional outcomes, compassionate care, industry-leading safety scores, lower costs, inspired employees, a unique environment and HCAP scores above the national average.

Professional communicators might translate that mission into something like this:

Our mission is to care for each life as if it were our own.

Consensus is important when you are crafting the general direction of the MVV framework. Yes, get the temperature of who your organization is from a wide sample of people at your health system. Find out what inspires them. Survey the leadership and carve out where you need to be as a health system in five or ten years. Get wide participation.

But when it comes to taking all that research and building the statements themselves, keep the group as small as possible. Utilize key players and the professional communicators in your department to craft the words.

Then go for buy-in and present a few polished options as MVV prototypes. This will quadruple your chances of having a framework that does its job instead of appeasing boardroom politics.

Your leadership role in building mission/vision and values is just one of many aspects of building a strong MVV framework. But it is one aspect that influences all the rest.

It is about respecting your role as the organization’s communicator. While all are welcome to pop in for a visit…this is your house. Kick the CFO off of the couch. It’s time for him to go home. It’s the best thing for the entire team in the end.

When you take the reigns and do what you were meant to do, it not only gives you purpose—it helps all of your colleagues fulfill theirs. And when you work at a health system, the results are more than just words on paper. The result is better patients. And that’s a mission everyone can get behind.

Need more Mission/Vision and Values insights? Feel free to reach out to us for a chat and we can share some of the best practices we’ve learned from working with health systems over the last 30 years.