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Four Steps to Building a Stronger Foundation for Your Organization

Inside Business

Posted: February 26, 2008 8:39 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.
If the press is correct, and the economy is contracting, now is the time to take stock of your business.
Even if the press is incorrect, it wouldn't hurt to step back and take time to analyze your current business situation, and build upon that by reviewing the values, vision and mission of the organization.

Reviews of this nature should take place on a regular basis, and many organizations do just that during their annual strategic planning exercises.

The first step is to perform a SWOT analysis. This is a simple analysis of "inventory" beginning with listing the internal strengths or advantages as well as weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Then, look at the external opportunities (possibilities) and compare them to the external threats (dangers) facing the organization.

The second step is to develop a list of values that the company "lives" by. Values are core beliefs. They pass the test of time; they are who the company is. Values provide a solid footing for daily performance. They provide a foundation for testing reality and for decision making.

Companies without values tend to suffer accordingly. Enron will be remembered for all time for illegal actions, the focus on profit, for the lies told by leadership, for cooking the books, for the destruction of the life savings of thousands of good, hard working employees.

Having, reviewing and enforcing values are the responsibility of everyone in the organization.

The third step is the creation of a vision statement. Vision establishes the "big" objective of the company. Unfortunately, too many organizations lack a vision; many that have it do not share it with the employees. Without something to target, organizations drift.

Not having a vision is like going to a trip in your car without having any idea as to where you want to end up. Not only is it hard to get excited about the journey, you don't have any idea as to how you can contribute to the effort.

The fourth step is to develop a mission statement. This simple, declarative statement describes how your organization will interact with internal and external clients and the rest of the world as it moves towards its vision.

In her book. "The Path," author Laurie Beth Jones states that a good mission statement should have three qualities to it. First, it should be so simple that a twelve-year old could understand and repeat it. Second, it can be repeated by memory, even if someone was holding a gun to your head. Third, it should be no more than a single sentence long.

Developing meaningful documents such as a SWOT analysis, values, vision and mission statements take time, and will often be updated as the organization grows and changes.

The time spent on the creation of these foundation elements of a business will help it to whether both good and tough times, regardless of the economic conditions that exist at that moment.

Kenneth W. Keller is President of Renaissance Executive Forums, bringing business owners together in facilitated peer advisory boards. His column represents his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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