2. The elements of the Mission & why they are important

The mission is compromised of four major elements that the Mission Canvas attempts to tease out and help us to explore:

  1. What is the vision of the future (what do we seek to achieve?)
  2. How we can measure long-term success (how will we know if we are on the right path?)
  3. Why we are pursuing it (why us?)
  4. The values that will guide us (who are we really?)

There are a number of problems that entrepreneurs have with these questions.

In the first place, they often don’t think very hard about them. A lot of it seems obvious to them and there is this pressure to “move fast and break things” that means they set-off with answers that are not fully-formed. This becomes problematic after they start recruiting other people who may have visions of their own and because ours isn’t sufficiently clear, they may either not realise or may “fudge” things to make these different missions line up. This leads to problems later when the real cracks appear.

Secondly, they often don’t sweat the detail. They have answers that are “good enough” and get moving. Except that their judgement of “good enough” is often faulty in this case because here you are setting your destination and the type of journey you are going to undertake.

If we think about an aircraft in flight, a three-degree error in bearing on a journey of a few miles probably means being a few meters off course. However, on a journey of two thousand miles, it means being potentially 90 miles off course! That could easily be enough land you in an entirely different country!

When we are doing something ambitious it’s been to think in terms of expeditions of thousands of miles rather than a journey to the shops and back. Small errors we make as we set off can be magnified into huge deviations on our course. It’s important to set off on the right journey in the beginning.

Thirdly as entrepreneurs, we are often smart and easily bored. Sometimes we set off on a mission that seems a good idea but in which we cannot invest all of our passions. This becomes problematic when things become difficult. Our passion is not strong enough to quiet the resistance and we start to tack in different directions. The gambler’s fallacy often means that we also can’t just quit, even if that would be the smart move!

Last, but by no means least people often have little idea of the values that are important to them. This means that they make serious mistakes in hiring. Values are the internal compass that says “we do this” and “we do not do this” and when people have conflicting values, external conflict is never far behind. Sharing values is not about sharing personality, like the same kind of humour or movies, or dressing the same. Sharing values is about what we consider important about how we behave.

For example, I have “curiosity” as a value. It’s not a preference because, while I am curious by nature, beyond this I have found it very difficult to work with incurious people to the point where I just won’t do it any more, it never works properly.

This has a serious consequence for my business: I cannot take on clients who don’t share this value with me. Values should have serious consequences if they are to mean something. A lot of people confuse values and preferences and go wrong or just don’t think very hard about this at all and wonder why their culture becomes a complete mess.

These are the core elements of mission to me and you could see these as being a kind of compass for your business pointing to your true north.