From my experience, Organizational Development requires a unique approach for each company - there often is no right or wrong way an organization should operate, if they’re operating in line with their values. Depending on the tone the leader sets, and the industry, an organization can be more or less, collaborative, competitive, compassionate, fast paced, laid back or anything in between.

What I find is most important is for the culture to be authentic and aligned to an organization’s purpose. When a company’s culture (the way employees act and connect with each other) is not aligned with the published company vision and values, employees can experience a disconnect. For example, if a company announces it is compassionate and collaborative, when in fact all the processes reward fierce competition, an employee can become confused.

A companies’ vision (where they want to go), mission (how the company will get there), and values (the attributes and behaviors expected of its people) work together to become its North Star, and its path to achieve success. The company culture is often aligned by these three cornerstones and driven by the actual behavior of employees from the top down.

So how does a company go about deciding on their vision, mission and values?

• Let’s start with values - company values need to reflect the values and expectations of its leadership.

• Next, a senior leader or owner needs to articulate where the company wants to go, creating and communicating a vision.

• Lastly, the mission is a good way to outline what the company does to achieve its vision.

1. Defining values might be a relatively easy exercise but living those values can become challenging. Starting with a values list makes this exercise easier. First, have individuals brainstorm values from their individual perspectives. Then, group like values across the participating team members’ lists, putting like values together. Finally, pick five values that represent the behaviors the company expects of all its employees. I always like to add a description to each value so there is not confusion. For example, “Integrity: being honest in all interactions internally and with our partners and clients.” Two important factors in successfully creating values are ensuring the senior team is involved in the creation of the values, ensuring they are willing to exhibit, encourage, celebrate, and reward these behaviors when demonstrated by employees.

"Depending on the tone the leader sets, and the industry, an organization can be more or less, collaborative, competitive, compassionate, fast paced, laid back or anything in between"

Once the values are chosen, described, and published, they need to be “lived.” Some companies I have worked with have spotlighted people who exhibit behaviors in support of the values; one even created a Good Citizenship bonus to reward the expected behaviors. A great affirmation tool is to build recognition or reward programs around the values.

2. The vision is like the company’s North Star, guiding strategies and projects. Creating a vision takes more effort and, in my experience, having a third party help in the process can be beneficial. First, the senior team answers two questions, “Where do we want to go as a company?” and at a high level, “How will we measure success?” Then, someone directed by the senior team explores other company visions, including those of competitors, admired companies, industry leaders, and so on. Having those visions as a contextual reference point can help as you brainstorm.

The senior team then discusses the future of the company and aligns on a statement that describes that future to employees, clients, vendors, and shareholders. A few additional guidelines to consider: Visions need to be future-oriented so starting with “To be…” is often helpful. For example: “To be a leader in providing…” Visions need to be unique and ideal, describing the trajectory you envision for the business and the distinct potential you see the business realizing.

It’s also important to craft a vision that can evolve as circumstances change and a company experiences growth. I am proud to work for a company that has a clear vision, “To be the world’s authority on helping organizations focus on what matters.” In the changing world of Human Resources, what matters to employees and employers will change, so in turn, what we focus on will adapt.

3. A mission is what you will do day to day to achieve the vision. Crafting a vision is a matter of defining the “what” you do day to day to achieve the vision.

It often has multiple parts and can be the connection between company strategies and company vision. Some companies have multiple missions or a multi-part vision to address different sides of the business. In one instance, I’ve seen a company have Economic, Social and Product missions. Your vision statement should be supported by the detailed how in the mission statement. What will you provide in order to realize the ideal state your vision describes? What tangible actions will you take?

By formalizing your company’s values, vision and mission, you can help connect your workforce to your larger purpose and drive strong outcomes.