Vision, mission and the reliability balanced scorecard

Organizational alignment means having an organization that is structured and set up to succeed.

By Andy Ginder, vice president, ABB Reliability Consulting

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In our first article, we talked about operational excellence, as depicted in the chart below, and how maintenance and reliability are core underpinnings. In this installment, I chose to address a few key areas under the Organizational Alignment pillar, in particular Vision, Mission and Scorecard (KPI’s). Although I touched briefly on these last time, I would like to expand upon them.

Five basic or foundational elements exist in this model: people, processes, systems, technology, and equipment

As mentioned last time, organizational alignment means having an organization that is structured and set up to succeed, with personnel moving in concert toward agreed upon and understood goals and objectives. Clearly defined vision and mission statements align people’s thought processes and activities. Rather than relying on textbook definitions, I’ll share my understanding of vision and mission statements, drawn from practical experiences during more than 30 years of consulting.

A vision identifies a far-reaching objective, one that possibly is unattainable, but worth striving for. It tends to be strategic in nature. A mission on the other is more tactical. The end objective or goal is more precise and well defined, and it should definitely be attainable. The intent of both, though, is to align and motivate personnel.

Some might consider vision and mission statements as “soft” or “fluff.”. If not applied correctly, that can be the case. Bountiful examples of “feel good” or politically correct” statements adorn the walls of manufacturing plants, yet have minimal effect on the decision-making and employee action.

Why is that? Unfortunately excessive focus often is placed on beautiful prose statements that touch on every possible core value you might want to see in a company: safety, role in the community, environmental compliance, world-class manufacturer, and on and on. They try to say so much that they say nothing. Vision/mission statements frequently are found in front offices (corporate headquarters or manufacturing plant) rather than on the manufacturing floor. Regardless of where they’re posted, I like to question employees, in particular operators, mechanics and first-line supervisors whether they know what their vision/mission is and whether it affects what they do. Almost always, the vision/mission isn’t understood for several reasons.

  • Excessive length. The statements are too verbose. There is too much to absorb or remember.
  • Lack of clarity. In trying to say too much, they say little. Nothing stands out and grabs one’s attention.
  • Inappropriate display. The statements either are posted in the wrong or inconspicuous locations
  • Lack of reinforcement. Supervisory discussions fail to reinforce the message or there are no links between the statements and what the organization measure.s.

A mission statement should be characterized by the “3 m’s”. In other words a good mission statement should be:

  • Minimal. Keep the message short and simple.
  • Measurable. You should be able to tell when the mission has been achieved.
  • Memorable. Craft something that grabs people’s attention as much as possible.

Employees don’t need to know the statements verbatim and regurgitate them upon demand; but they should be able to verbalize the basic content. And that’s more probable if the message is minimal, memorable and measurable.

A number of mission statements gained widespread prominence, statements that most of you probably are aware. For instance, President John F. Kennedy stated the following NASA Moon Mission in 1961.

“This nation should dedicate itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

Others include:

  • “Put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” — John F. Kennedy
  • “Be number one or two in every industry in which we compete.” — Jack Welch
  • “Put a computer in every home” — Bill Gates

Although my wording doesn’t exactly match the originals, and even though each statement doesn’t include all of the “3 m’s”, they meet the criteria of great mission statements.

Of course, having a great mission statement isn’t enough. Your organization’s mission needs to be linked to your performance measures, strategies and plans of action, which brings us to a discussion of scorecards and key performance indicators (KPI’s).

My thinking in this area has been influenced by “The Balanced Scorecard” articles and books published by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton. Once their initial articles were published in the Harvard Business Review, many major corporations adopted the approach, and numerous additional books by other authors have expanded the concept and documented successes and challenges in its implementation.

A principal objective behind the balanced scorecard is to integrate an organization’s mission, strategies, tactical plans of action and performance measures. Too often, there’' no linkage between these items. Once a company defines its vision and mission, it needs to ensure that its strategies and plans of action are designed to move the organization toward attainment of that mission, and the performance indicators should document that movement.

Another key element of this methodology is to ensure that there’s a balanced suite of indicators. Historically, companies placed great emphasis on financial indicators that measures whether you are successful today and in the past, but don’t adequately reflect future success. So, balanced scorecard adherents typically allocate their indicators between four quadrants: financial, business process, learning and growth, and customer.

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