Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mission Questions

Warren Berger has an outstanding column over at Fast Company about what he calls "mission questions."   Berger, the author of the forthcoming book A More Beautiful Question, argues that leaders should be asking five crucial questions pertaining to a company's mission.   Here are the five questions:

1.  Why are we here in the first place?

2. What does the world need most that we are uniquely able to provide?

3.  What are we willing to sacrifice?

4.  What matters more than money?

5.  Are we all on this mission together?

I think these questions are very useful.   I would simply add two comments.  First, companies need to be cautious about adopting an insular approach when responding to these questions.   The questions focus on "we" a great deal - as in the company's leaders and other employees.  Of course, the key player here is the customer.  What do they want, need, and desire?   Why should they choose us?   We might have a cool product idea, and we might care about it a great deal... but does it really solve a problem for a customer?  Does it relieve their pain?   Too much product focus and not enough customer focus can be a problem in some organizations.  

Second, the questions get people to think very broadly about the company's purpose. However, a great strategy has a strong degree of focus.  Answering these questions can sometimes get people thinking so expansively that they aren't carefully delineating the boundaries of the firm's strategy. Who are we trying to serve, and who are we not trying to serve?   What are we going to produce, and what are not going to produce?  

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