ZAG was over fifteen years old before we did one of the most basic things any business should do at its foundation. Write down our mission, values, and vision. A document to not only remind us where we are going and why, but also something we could share, so others understood too. Any MBA student will tell you to start with this.
Instead, we started by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. Along the way, we created an organization that had a strong sense of loyalty and client focus. We built the company we all wanted to be at, we just didn’t formalize it with a formal mission, values, and vision statement.
As we continued to grow, it became apparent that we would need to formalize these three pillars. Our team was getting big enough that we started to risk dilution of the secret sauce that created the company. So, we embarked on a goal of formalizing these critical pillars of the organization.
I would have told anyone that asked that everyone at ZAG knew our mission, even though we never formally stated it. We have always been very client-focused and willing to do whatever it takes to make the client successful. At our core, we are a service organization. That was true on day one, and it is true today.
We worked as a group to come up with a formal mission statement. We got to the essence of it quickly. Unfortunately, as a group of engineers, it was excessively wordy. We then spent a couple of months refining it, reducing its word count, making it succinct. A statement that anyone could remember.
We eventually settled on “Enabling our Clients to Succeed.” This statement actively captures the essence of our mission. More importantly, putting it out there was revolutionary for our organization. We always worked to enable the success of our clients. Calling it out focused everything. If something doesn’t enable client success, then why would we think about doing it?
The mission honestly makes me happy. It is who we are, what we do, and why we are here.
We took a slightly different approach to ZAG’s values. We got a group of employees together to independently work on the values of the organization. The only general guidance I gave was that I felt the list should be five or fewer values. Any more would be difficult to remember and even harder for our team to embrace.
While the employee group was doing this, our executive team worked independently to create a list of what we thought ZAG’s values were. The entire company then came together as a group, agreeing that the following best expresses our values:
- Integrity Foremost
- Client Centered
- Accountable Always
- Teamwork Throughout
- Exceptional the Goal
I can honestly say that these are the values that we expect out of every one of our team members. We even find that the clients who share these values are the best fit for us. This list is who we are.
What was most remarkable was that when the two groups came together with their respective lists, they were amazingly similar. In fact, they were exactly the same with except for the final value of exceptionalism. The employees had exceptionalism called out. It ultimately is my favorite value because I find it to be inspirational and aspirational. It moves me.
I believe that the two groups came to the essentially same list of values because we have hired right. Even though we had never formalized the values, we all knew what they were. This is why we have been successful.
Having the values formalized is providing the expected benefits. It is how we hire, how we fire, and what we have learned to expect from our coworkers. Knowing them has added clarity to the organization.
The final item we formalized is our vision. This is our statement of what the world looks like when we help our clients succeed. The vision of ZAG is, Building a future where technology is a competitive advantage. We work to create this every day. It is what everyone in IT should strive to achieve. We are no longer cost centers for companies. We are the competitive advantage the Board of Directors is looking for.
Many facets create a competitive advantage. Starting with security. Everyone knows that defense wins championships. Security in an organization is the team’s defense.
It then extends to projects that make the employees more efficient by providing them new capabilities, processes, and efficiencies. Even deploying remote access capabilities can significantly increase an organization’s competitive advantage.
Finally, deploying new applications or business intelligence resources can dramatically move an organization’s competitive capabilities. These can transform an organization.
What we learned from this experience
The process of formalizing our mission, our values, and our vision has been outstanding for us as an organization. We are more focused, and it helps to keep every one of our team members on the same page as we grow.
I want to give a shout out to everyone involved in this process. The employee participation has been substantial and has moved me. I highly recommend anyone who has been focusing too much on the daily grind to go through this process. It will change your organization.