Organizational Ownership

A mission statement can set the foundation for committed employees.

February 27, 2001

Remodelers keying in on quality-improvement strategies find out quickly that if their people aren’t committed, improvement won’t happen. Employees need guidance, and a mission statement is a foundational step.

Ted Brown, president of NRQ Gold Award winner Traditional Concepts Inc. in Lake Bluff, Ill., recognized the importance of the mission statement. He also realized that if employees were to consider it important, they’d have to participate in its creation. "If it’s not a group-participation project, there’s no ownership," Brown says. "If I could write [the mission statement] with the exact same words, it wouldn’t work."

Over the course of several months, Brown and his company followed a 12-step process that proved successful in the creation of and employee commitment to TCI’s mission statement.

Ask for volunteers to help write the statement. In addition to Brown, six employees from across the business (production, accounting, etc.) comprised a committee. "You get a better buy-in if people are interested than if their arms are twisted," Brown says. Set a regular schedule and milestones so committee members know the commitment and time expectations.

Capture ideas and phrases. TCI used 325 index cards to write down concepts that should be included in the mission. Those cards were then affixed to a board for all to read and consider. "We had a board filled with cards with different ideas," Brown says.

Organize thoughts. TCI grouped the cards around similar themes.

Distill ideas.Each group of cards represented an idea, and the committee condensed those groupings into words or phrases that articulated that idea.

Prioritize concepts. Each idea was evaluated to ensure that important points were covered and articulated. In some instances, ideas were combined into a single concept. Ideas were written on larger sheets of paper for display to the group.

Write individual statements. The group broke up, and each member wrote a mission statement. "[Trying to write] a sentence as a group is too hard," Brown says.

Share statements. Everybody read his or her mission statement. The group evaluated the statements and picked out characteristics that worked. "Some [statements] were better than others," Brown says. "Some parts were better than others."

Synthesize a mission statement. The parts were assembled into a statement that the group said best represented the process. Each committee member approved the final draft.

Show the statement to the company at large. Brown says the statement circulated with an invitation for input from all employees, asking if the statement succeeded.

Collect input. Brown says he was surprised by the amount of feedback and by the quality of the ideas. "A lot of the initial thought was that we had to go [to the rest of the company] for buy-in," he says. "We didn’t expect that we’d get such great ideas [back]." Everyone in the company had the opportunity to contribute to the formulation of the mission statement, and the feedback indicated that the statement was important to all employees, not just to those serving on the committee.

Further crafting. The smaller group took the feedback and continued to refine the statement.

Final buy-in. Brown says he had to stay out of the way and be patient. "There’s no virtue in speed when it comes to getting buy-in," he says. The final version is a high standard. "I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable setting it that high [by myself]," Brown says. "They set the bar themselves."

The biggest lesson Brown has learned, he says, is that the need to come up with good ideas is secondary to the need to have ownership of those ideas by the organization. "A second-rate idea that everybody buys into is better than a first-rate one that nobody [does]."

Brown can be reached at (847) 234-0825, or tedwbrown@aol.com.

For an application for the National Remodeling Quality Award competition, call (800) 638-8556, Ext. 6225 for more information.

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