Everyone has a vision or a mission statement. But we lack a standard definition of those terms, using the same words in different ways. This leads to more confusion than cohesion, both internally with our people and externally with our stakeholders.
So let’s throw out the words and start over. Words must be simple to be understandable. They must be understandable to be repeatable. And if they are repeatable then they will spread.
In our founder Simon Sinek’s upcoming book, The Infinite Game, we put forward a new term – having a “Just Cause.” A Just Cause is informed by your WHY – your noble purpose for being. It describes a vision of the world that is so inspiring and compelling that people are willing to sacrifice to see that vision advanced.
There are five criteria to articulate a Just Cause. It must be: 1) For Something; 2) Inclusive; 3) Service-Oriented; 4) Resilient, and 5) Idealistic. Let’s define each.
It serves as a positive and specific vision of the future.
While being against something may be effective in rallying people, it doesn’t inspire and it won’t last. A Just Cause is what you stand for rather than what you stand against.
It is open to all those who wish to contribute.
A Just Cause attracts people from diverse skillsets. Too often visions and missions are tied to a specific product. If your stated purpose is about the technology, for example, then it is mostly designed for engineers. Everyone else who is not an engineer may feel like, or even be treated as, second-class citizens. A great Just Cause inspires all to make their worthwhile contributions and feel valued for it.
The primary benefit of the cause has to go to those other than you, the contributors.
For example, if you go to your boss for career advice, the expectation is that the advice you receive will benefit your career. If your boss gives you advice that benefits their own career, they are not service-oriented. This extends to organizations, leaders and investors. The products and services an organization develops must be designed to primarily benefit its customers, not the company. If you are a leader, your leadership has to benefit the people in your sphere of care. And, if you are an investor, the investments you make have to benefit the company with which you are investing. Of course, you can expect a return on your investment, but it must be of secondary benefit. The primary benefactor of the investment is the recipient, not the investor.
Be able to endure political, technological and cultural change.
Again, if you define your Just Cause based upon the prevalence of particular technology or a specific product and there is a market change, your Just Cause will not last.
Big, bold and ultimately unachievable.
It’s not about becoming the biggest, the best or number one. It’s not about reaching some arbitrary revenue target, even if it is huge.
It is about pursuing something that is infinite – for all intents and purposes, you will not ever attain it.
It is, indeed, a vision and not a goal. And as you make progress toward that better world you imagine, you will be able to feel and measure your momentum. A Just Cause is an ideal. It is something so noble that we would be willing to devote our lives and careers toward advancing it. And, when our careers are over, the Just Cause can live on and serve to inspire further progress; that can be our legacy.
Most people and organizations do not write good vision or mission statements, not because they are bad people, but because we do not yet have a standard definition or guidelines. We are hoping that this framework helps you cast a Just Cause that inspires people for the long run. And, remember, it is the leader’s job to ensure people feel a part of something— not that they simply have a part in something. Inspire your people, and they will inspire you.