By Jake Kirpes
I’ve been thinking about this line from W. Edward Deming:
“It is not enough to do your best, you must know what to do, and then do your best.”
Ok, fine. But how do you figure out what to do in the first place, in order to do your best with it? When you begin your daily separation from the comforts of sleep, are you driven by a larger goal or objective that really energizes you – that does propel you out of bed in the morning?
Strategic planning – something we tend to think of only for companies and nonprofit organizations – can help give us that clarity and drive. Specifically, 3 core pillars of strategic planning, Vision, Mission, and Values, can help answer the question of what to do, in order to know where to do our best.
Vision: Where do you want to go?
Vision provides direction and motivation for daily and more strategic decisions. It is a mental image of how you want your life to be. Think of your future – whether it’s 1 year, 5 years, or 25 years away. What kind of life do you want to be living? Where is it, who’s with you, what are you doing? Feel free to dream big – but it doesn’t have to include saving the world, being rich, or gaining fame. The most important thing is to feel it in your heart. Vision may be a mental image, but it truly is born and lives in the heart.
My personal Vision involves a full home of family, good food, and laughter. A house with a big back deck perfect for grilling on a Tuesday evening or hosting friends on a Friday night. Beyond the deck there is a garden teeming with life, warmth, and yes, even the humidity of an Iowa summer. Lastly – and crucially – beside the garden a hammock under a shade tree, for lazy Sunday afternoons.
Your turn. What’s the Vision that feels right to you and your heart?
Mission: What do you want to achieve?
Where Vision comes from the heart, Mission is a product of the mind. For companies and other groups, mission is a response to the question, “Why do we as an organization exist?” For me (and you) as an individual, Mission is akin to what some might call “vocation.” What am I here on this earth to do?
Mission serves as a guidepost and sounding board for plans and decisions – both personal and professional.
I am still fine tuning my own Mission statement. What I currently have is best described as “directionally correct.” It includes solving systemic problems through systems engineering, thinking and design, and community engagement. The exact right words will come; for now, I’m clear on the direction – and that’s already helping me with planning and decision-making.
Your Mission in its purest form is unique to you. Can you write your personal Mission statement? It can often be a challenge to clearly state a personal mission. If you have trouble creating one or settling on the exact wording that fits you, that’s okay. Step back, give it some time and come back at it later. You can use every experience you have during that time to bring you closer to articulating your Mission. Every relationship you’re in, every organization you join, even every problem you encounter – all of these give you opportunities to “try on” and get clearer on the Mission that best fits you.
Values: How will we conduct ourselves along the way?
Values answer the question, “What are we willing or unwilling to do to reach our Vision and Mission?” They are beliefs that drive behavior; from one on one interactions behind closed doors to policies and practices at every level. Values distinguish individuals and organizations. In groups, aligned values create community, trust, and a deeper commitment to each other. Misaligned values frustrate, distract, and dishearten.
To identify a rough draft of your Core Values, write down the names of 3-4 people you admire across the top of a blank page. Beneath each name write out the characteristics that you admire the most about each person. Look for commonalities or traits that jump out as significant to you and you’ll have a first draft of your personal Core Values.
Knowing What to Do: A 3 Way Test:
Once defined, the three-way test of your personal Vision, Mission, and Values offers a helpful, quick way to evaluate and determine where, what, and how you should apply your energy, focus, and time. When you have a clear answer to where you want to go, what you want to achieve, and how you will conduct yourself along the way, the question of what to do becomes as trivial as rolling out of bed to start your day.
And with that decision made, all that remains is to do your best.
Jake Kirpes is a Business Strategist & Engineer at TPG Companies. He’s a team leader who excels at working with organizations and their leaders to identify, develop, and convert market opportunity to business success. TPG and Jake help a wide variety of businesses and organizations with their strategic planning. For this blog, Jake took some of the core concepts from that work and applied it to individuals at a more personal level. If you know of an organization or business that could benefit from strategic planning help, please share TPG’s name and info.
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