How to Align an Organization’s Mission with Action

One of the things that make an organization truly great is the alignment between their stated mission and the actions they take. Every organization has an inspirational mission statement aspiring them to the best behavior in all interactions. There is a world of difference between displaying those words in the front of an employee handbook and actually living them out as an organization.

 

I recently had a client who needed to create an employee handbook from scratch. In researching what should be in an employee handbook, we came across the Netflix employee handbook. You might want to peruse it yourself: https://jobs.netflix.com/culture. One of their guiding principles is, “A dream team in which all of your colleagues are extraordinary at what they do and are highly effective collaborators.” Statements like this are not unique in employee documents. What is unique is how Netflix applies them.

 

Netflix provides any just adequately-performing employee with four months of severance and releases them so the organization can look for the superstar needed to live up to their dream team culture. Why? Because adequate performance is not good enough for Netflix.

 

Managers identify adequately-performing employees through one simple question. If this employee turned in their notice, would you fight to keep them? If the answer is no, there is no need to retain them on the team. Employees are encouraged to ask their manager if their performance would justify keeping them on, and frank conversations are the norm. It is rare to surprise an employee with the offer of a severance package.

 

It is up to you to design the culture of your organization. The key message here is that your culture is the combination of what you say (your mission statement, employee handbook, etc.) and what you actually do. If the documentation is clear and you apply it consistently, you create an organization that is high functioning.

 

Alignment creates an environment where people know what to expect. They know what behavior the organization will tolerate, reward, and won’t accept. People are encouraged to act in both their own self-interest and in the interest of the organization, because the place where those two ideals intersect is clearly defined.

 

The problem for most organizations is clarity. There is a mission statement or related documentation that sounds good but is irrelevant when compared with how the organization actually operates. Guidelines are inconsistently applied, leaving employees feeling uncertain about what is okay and what is not. When the guidelines are not clear, employees err on the side of caution and fail to take appropriate action if there is the slightest chance it won’t be supported.

 

My challenge to you is to take a hard look at the culture of your organization. Are your values clear? Do you apply them consistently? Do your employees know what to expect? Are you encouraging the kind of behavior you really want? If you are not 100% clear about where your organization stands, it is imperative that you find out. If you don’t like the answers, now is the time to create clarity and alignment within your organization.

 

Charlise Latour a business coach and owner of Accelerate Your Success. She works with each client to determine what their goals are and create a plan so they can achieve them. She is actively involved in Dancing & Singing With The King which raises money to promote dance education including working with local schools to offer dance classes during the school day. This is a natural fit as she is an avid ballroom dancer.

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