Mission and Vision Revision
Arundel Childcare Connections (ACCC), a small nonprofit that offers guidance, continuing education, and advocacy for early childhood educators and parents, contacted me for a mission and vision revision. One of Human Systems’ leadership principles includes a common understanding of the organizational mission by all Employees. Therefore, I suggested that we include all of the Staff in the revision process. In addition, the ACCC Executive Director explained that one of the organization’s biggest challenges was engaging the Board, so we decided to include the Board members in the process as well. In this case, the number of Staff and Board members (9) would be conducive to the creation of a mission and a vision that was informed by multiple perspectives and would not be unwieldy. In the case of a larger organization, I might suggest a workgroup with upper-level management, a random sample of employees throughout the organization, and a random sample of Board members and other stakeholders as appropriate.
Researching the organization
Prior to our mission and vision revision session, I requested and reviewed several documents from ACCC, including a recent grant proposal, an organizational chart, a personnel handbook, and a newsletter. I also reviewed their website and mission and vision statements that were current at the time. I wanted to get a strong sense of what ACCC does and the population they serve.
At the beginning of the session, I had each of the nine participants complete a ACCC Mission and Vision Worksheet that would facilitate their thinking on ACCC short-term and long-term goals. From my experience, the best mission statement explains how an organization intends to achieve their vision, and the best vision statement paints a very clear picture of what the world might look like if the organization’s services were not needed anymore. A vision statement is not necessarily achievable in a person’s lifetime.
Using their stories
Once worksheets were complete, we started a discussion around what everybody’s “story” was – why did they become involved in early childhood education (question 1 on the worksheet)? This question served multiple functions: 1) it was a topical icebreaker; 2) it allowed everybody to become personally invested in the product; 3) it highlighted commonalities between Employees and Board members for the purpose of moving Staff and Board towards increased collaboration; and 4) it allowed multiple stakeholder perspectives to emerge.
Facilitating the process
As people spoke, I jotted notes on a flip chart while I asked clarifying questions and suggested phrases that might capture ideas that participants were trying to convey. I was careful to encourage participants to reject my suggestions if they didn’t resonate – I wanted the new mission and vision to be wholly the creation of Board and Staff, so unless a phrase received immediate and enthusiastic approval, it didn’t get recorded. The Vision and Mission Exercise document shows the results of each workshop question.
Next, participants shared their core principles around early childhood education and how their principles aligned with ACCC’s work (question 2 on the worksheet). This discussion built on the functions of story sharing, and also helped expand participants’ perspective from the personal to the organizational (see page 2 of the ACCC Vision and Mission Exercise document).
My original intention was to help them form a vision statement first, then figure out what needed to happen to achieve that vision, but participants clearly felt more comfortable talking about mission-related activities and resources before expanding to a visionary perspective. They discussed activities that they already did well, ones that they had been attempting but wanted to improve upon, and goals that they felt they should be pursuing but had not attempted yet (see page 4 of the ACCC Vision and Mission Exercise document). As they talked, I helped identify key themes that kept emerging, such as continuing education, advocacy, and support for early childhood educators. As themes became stronger and participants starting reaching a consensus, I guided them towards formulating a mission statement that reflected the prominent themes and captured the spirit of the preceding discussions. They settled on what I thought was an excellent mission statement – clear, concise, and dense with purposeful calls to action.
Past Mission Statement: To enhance and expand the quality of child care in Anne Arundel County by providing training, support services and public education through collaboration with child care providers, parents and the community. Arundel Child Care Connections is committed to promoting school readiness and the well being of young children and those who care for them.
New Mission Statement: We provide the connections that improve knowledge, awareness, and competence to those who nurture, teach, and advocate for children.
Finally, we tackled the vision statement. It was a bit of a challenge to get participants to expand their perspective and imagine what many might believe is impossible. Of course, not everybody does it this way, but I believe that a vision statement should be inspiring and support really big ideas – if you can’t bring yourself to imagine it, you can’t possibly achieve it. I find that a version of what is known as the “miracle question” in counseling can be really useful: If your organization’s services were not needed anymore, what would the world look like? I encouraged them to focus not on the organizational players – childcare providers, parents, employees, government – but instead on the reason that ACCC exists, which, as they decided, was so that children could thrive in their environment.
Past Vision Statement: To become Anne Arundel County’s trusted resource for all things related to child care.
New Vision Statement: Our community fully supports the education and well-being of all children so that they can thrive in the world.