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Takeaways from applying a winning mission

Key lessons I learned about the role of a mission to transform an organization that I see in Jack Welch’s (2005) writings today include:

  • Have purpose. Define a mission that clearly states how you intend to win and provides a sense of direction and inspiration that motivates, even inspires, mission-attainment behaviors.
  • Take responsibility. For the leader, take responsibility for defining the mission and values, but do not do so in isolation. Engaging others by candidly communicating the problem and working with them to develop a solution is essential for building a coalition of change agents who can help influence transformation organically throughout the organization. Contrarily, attempting to develop a solution in isolation and forcing top-down implementation can doom a change process to failure (Kotter, 1990).
  • Be the change. For the employee, recognize when change is imminent and necessary and pursue opportunities to join the change coalition. Becoming a mission-driven organization includes implementing processes that “reward the people who exhibit [organizational values] and punish those who don’t” (Welch, 2005, p. 20); so, make the conscious decision to contribute or prepare for exit.
  • Align. Once you've established the mission, constantly “harp” on it (Welch, 2005, p. 16). Align strategy, goals, tactics, and controls with the mission. Link the decisions and initiatives to the mission.
  • Adapt. Continuously assess the mission and values for improvement. The context is dynamic. Carving a mission in granite and remaining static in a dynamic environment can escalate commitment to failed courses of action that diminish success (Brockner, 1992). Jack Welch (2005) says that creating the mission and associated values should be an “iterative” process, meaning that it should be “poked and probed by people all over the organization, over and over again” (pp. 18-19).

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