Ask any retailer why they are in business and if they give you any answer beyond to make a profit, they know something of strategic thinking and having a deeper organisational purpose.
It goes without saying that profitability and sustainability are key business objectives, yet some businesses define themselves otherwise. They consider profitability a by-product of meaningful business and in doing so make a contribution to society in addition to making to money.
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Understanding organisational purpose
An organisation’s mission, vision and values statements provide the cornerstone for the process of developing strategic plans. Not all organisations have a formally stated mission, but there is likely to be some form of commonly understood purpose and set of values that impact business decision-making and company culture.
The value in understanding organisational purpose is to then:
- Clearly define organisational mission, vision and values
- Interpret mission vision and values into strategic plans to take the business into the future
- Develop short-term objectives, targets and strategies to translate, reflect and realise strategic objectives
- Develop action plans to achieve those objectives and targets
Why a business trades is the question that requires most attention initially. Modern retailers and new businesses have grown up and established themselves in times where defining organisational purpose is a key business activity and often a requirement to attract financial backers.
Long standing retailers and those in smaller businesses may not have ever attempted to define their purpose although paying close attention to the business model and culture that exists within the business will help identify the motivations behind the business. Suffice to say that organisational purpose exists for all businesses, formally or informally and once defined can be used as the starting point for the development and consideration of business direction.
Mission, Vision and Values Statements are used as the foundation of strategic planning, and writing them is generally the role of senior executives in a business.
Processes such as team building and organisational development strategies can start to increase consciousness of values and their meanings but it is often stories and symbolism that have the greatest impact on bringing new values to life.
The Vision can be separate from the Mission or the two expressed as one. Some businesses don’t formulate Value Statements at all. A business’s mission, vision and values may be explicit (clearly expressed as a statement) or implicit (expressed in the way the business is managed from the top).
Develop business mission
It is common for the terms mission, vision and values to be used interchangedly yet this is not an accurate depiction of the terms and how they define core business planning.
A Mission Statement describes what the company is now. It defines where the organisation is going now, basically describing the purpose or why the organisation exists. The Mission Statement describes the motivations for engaging in the company’s activities beyond simply the desire to produce a profit. Mission focuses on why the vision will be achieved.
An organisation’s Mission Statement may describe why the business exists and this can be traced back to the founder of the business.
- Why was the business started?
- What need did it seek to satisfy?
- What demand existed in the marketplace that could be met by the business?
Things change and organisations review and adjust their Mission Statements or risk becoming redundant in the dynamic and changing retail world.
Mission Statements are best articulated in a way that is easy to grasp and free of jargon. They should be brief enough so that people connected with the business can readily recall them. Sometimes these statements need to change to keep pace with external changes. Of importance is to ensure that all involved embrace change so mission statements should have the ability to inspire support and an ongoing commitment.
Develop vision and values
A Vision Statement outlines what a company wants to be. It concentrates on the future, and is a source of inspiration by reflecting an optimistic view of the organisation’s future. The vision describes the future identity of the business.
A Values Statement describes the main values projected by the organisation that the staff should display, and reflects the organisation’s culture and priorities.
A business’s values are generally a reflection of the values of the founder of the business:
- If someone who had a strong sense of ethics started the business then values that represent this will be prominent in the organisation.
- If the founder was one who sought to control, then the organisation is likely to exhibit values that represent adherents to systems and procedures.
- If the founder was a risk-taker then again the values are likely to reflect this type of behaviour and reward those who break new ground and achieve success.
However, when a business is acquired, sometimes the new owner will have a different view of how the business should operate and may set about attempting to integrate a new set of values. Likewise, some existing businesses will install new executives to run the business and these executives may seek to integrate new values. In either case, a decision will be made to determine what values the organisation will adopt and what level of intervention will be required to change the existing values.
Changing organisational values is not easy. Imagine being asked to change your personal values; how straightforward would it be to adopt new ones? How easy would it be to change? How often would you slip back to your old values position?
Values are instilled into us by upbringing and experiences at an early age and are not easy to change. The same is true in business. Often when a business seeks to change its values, existing employees can feel that the new values do not fit well with their own personal values and they decide to leave. This is a natural part of the transition, and indeed unless new people who reflect the desired values are introduced into the organisation it is difficult to see how change will come about.
This is particularly so for leadership positions as the behaviour of leaders and the inherent values they project will impact on those around them.
About ARA Retail Institute
ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit: www.retailinstitute.org.au