“Pursuit Statements give employees a personal role in communicating how they intend to provide value to an organization within the parameters of their area objectives.”
Mission Statements, Vision Statements, etc tend to be vague easily forgettable declarations devised by corporate strategy teams. They hold little to no value for individual employees or even their management in many cases. Pursuit Statements take a different path. They seek to increase buy in and generate support for the overall objectives through a hierarchy of personal statements. Simply and clearly each employee starting from CEO on down would provide a statement that would describe how they will build value for the organization by supporting the senior Pursuit Statement. Each employee will have ownership of his/her own Statement and strive to perform to the level the statement reflects. The employee on the ground may not care much for statement of the CEO but through their own efforts to satisfy their statement they ultimately support the CEO’s Statement. By attaching value during the evaluation and feedback process, employees will challenge themselves to deliver value to the organization.
Vague Mission Statements– Organizational mission statements have a tendency to be so vague and disconnected that employees are often at a loss for understanding how their personal role applies to them. Mission statements often hold no clear connection to many employees throughout an organization.
A What is My Role Mentality– Employees have a need to feel more valued then spokes on a wheel, they desire to be seen as adding real value to an organization.
Simple and Relevant – The best statements are simple and relevant. Simple ensures statements are easily understood and relevant increases buy in and participation as employees feel attachment of some kind.
Clear Objectives– Organizations have objectives, individuals have pursuits. Value is created when individuals pursue a mission that helps an organization reach its objectives.
Each Statement Supports Senior Statement– By linking an employee’s pursuit statement to that of his supervisor and the supervisor to that of the manager you can connect the value of even the lowest grade employee to that of the organizational head. This clear linkage gives the benefit of personal involvement and ownership but also ties each individual to the Organizational Mission Statement.
Ownership–Employees should feel a sense of ownership in their employer’s mission. The organizational mission statement is often too vague or disconnected to give employees a feeling of ownership. Therefore a more personalized approach should be taken, which would make employees accountable owners contributing to the organizational mission.
Evolution – Employees have the potential to rise above expectation or beyond the limitations of their position when in pursuit of something. Education, taking advantage or training programs, providing more feedback at meetings, etc are all ways employees may add value through their pursuits.
Evaluation– When employees set a personal goal outside the confines of their functional activities they should be recognized for it. A great tool for recognizing an employee’s pursuit is a formal evaluation of that pursuit. When an employee sets a professional goal or mission then incorporating accountability into it can make them work harder to achieve it.
Envision yourself for a moment as a new employee in a large organization. You are seeking to make a splash, to be heard, and ultimately be recognized as someone who contributes to the organization and its mission. You go in with the best of intentions and before you know it, you are neck deep in bureaucracy. Do you know or remember the mission of the organization you found yourself working for? Does it even apply to you at this point or are you just so busy with the day to day tasks that the mission holds little if any value for you?
If this sounds about right, then you are not alone. Take a look at various Fortune 500 Mission Statements. Just scroll down a compiled list and read them. Now ask yourself how they would apply to you in various hypothetical positions within an organization. Start with a production employee, then maybe try a HR specialist, then try a financial accountant, and go from there. Most likely the personal or practical relevance of the organizational mission is minimal, if it exists at all.
For this reason most mission statements fail to inspire. Organizations become a collection of individual fiefdoms where adherence to the mission is traded for a collection of hidden agendas.
That being said, the importance of an organizational mission is critical to that of providing a direction for the organization when it comes to planning, strategy, etc. but those mission statements must be specific enough to have either within them or by inference, definable objectives that are applicable. However organizations create mission statements that are broadly applicable and cover every aspect of an organization. It is felt that this will increase buy in and participation but the broadness of the statement reduces the relevance it seeks to create.
This conflict between what a mission statement should be and what organizations actually develop as mission statements, creates a mission statement that provides neither definable objectives nor does it increase buy in.
Some organizations are able to overcome the weakness of mission statements by adopting the personal pursuits of its head as a mission of sorts, especially if that person is highly regarded or seen as a visionary. The charisma and persistence of such an individual is enough to roughly steer the organization as a whole in their preferred direction. The drawback to such an approach is that when the head leaves, the organization once again falls back on a generic mission that doesn’t provide any real direction. An organization should never be forced to acquire leaders that can define the mission, they should seek to find leaders that can support the mission with his or her pursuits
The challenge then is how an organization can provide for itself a mission that has definable objectives, while giving real ownership to every employee in its workforce?
Pursuit Statements are developed by every employee on every level within an organization. Each statement directly supports the senior statement and represents a personalized mission on how the employee plans to deliver value to their functional position within the organization. These statements should be simple, clear, and provide measurable objectives directly or through inference of the statement’s content.
The CEO, Director, or other title of the head of an organization would also have a Pursuit Statement that would support the organizational mission statement. In this way every pursuit leads up to and supports the most senior pursuit which then supports the approved mission statement. This reinforces the notion that all employees are actively involved in the goals of their leadership. Organizational missions trickle down all the way to the base of an organization through the development of this hierarchy. This leads to careful examination of the pursuits of one’s senior in order to determine a the appropriate personal pursuit which will support it.
Pursuit statements should be developed on a rolling basis from the top of an organization down towards the base. For example an annual appraisal of our pursuits to see if they can be expanded upon or modified. This regularity will keep pursuit statements fresh and ensure those statements remain aligned with the organizational mission statement.
It is important that pursuit statements are made through the collaborative efforts of both the senior statement maker and the junior statement maker. This will ensure proper alignment and increase the awareness of the employee regarding the issues that are most important to their senior. In addition communication skills will improve, a dialogue of priorities will provide focus for employees, and the employees will feel more valued in their proposed pursuits. This is as opposed to an employee being forced to fill out a generic sheet and a boss putting it in the HR folder to be forgotten.
Definable objectives should be established during this collaboration between the senior and junior. A component of an employee’s performance should be tied to these objectives and actively measured. Employees should be given feedback as to how they are progressing towards their pursuits and suggestions should be made on how they can better enhance their pursuits. Rewards should be tied to successful progress or attainment of a pursuit statement and they should be scalable depending on the scope of the statement.
Tying pursuits to performance will reveal two types of employees. The first are those that provide a pursuit statement that is small or insignificant in scope so they can just do the minimum required for successful completion. The second are those that have a greatly expanded scope and are challenging themselves to contribute value far beyond their normal activities.
In other words it is a great way for employees to differentiate themselves and for managers to separate the wheat from the chaff. Most importantly it provides a stream of continuous improvement beyond normal activities for employees and ultimately the organization.
1. First determine the highest position within the hierarchy of the group this is being implemented for. If the entire organization is adopting this system then it may be the CEO or Director, if it is a division or some other segment then it will be the highest position within that segment. From there work down to the base of the hierarchy linking juniors and seniors.
2. Starting with the highest position of the organization or group this tool is being applied to; have the individual write a pursuit statement on how they will deliver value to the organization. Ensure that the statement is clear and the pursuit can be measured in terms of definable objectives which can be met or left unmet. A good pursuit statement for the most senior pursuit statement might be along the lines of “I plan to pursue cost savings of 6% in the next year by managing a number of special projects to determine where savings can be made, and acting on the results of those projects.”
3. The next highest individual within the hierarchy would then develop a pursuit statement that will support the senior employee’s statement. Through collaboration and discussion between the senior leader and statement creator will develop a pursuit statement that supports the senior statement and provides meaningful objectives to be reached. For example if the senior leader had the statement used in step 2 then the next one might be “I plan to pursue cost savings by collecting and delivering a number of reports on measures that could be taken to achieve this.” This would be a form of direct support. However pursuit statements might support the senior statement indirectly as well. For example the statement might read “I plan to pursue the provision of 6-10 individuals within my department that have the training and resources they need to become six sigma black belts so that they can participate effectively in special projects.” This statement does not directly contribute to cost savings but the statement can be considered supportive since it provides more resources to the senior leader to achieve his/her own pursuit statement.
4. From there on down through the rest of the organization have each individual compile a pursuit statement that supports the senior statement either directly or indirectly. Ensure these are agreed upon by both the junior and senior leaders before validating the statement and moving down the hierarchy.
5. Set a timeframe where pursuit statements will be reviewed between junior and senior leaders in order to monitor individual success in reaching objectives set out by the pursuit statements.
Pursuit Statements from the top down evaluate them from the bottom up.
A. Reward success for those that meet objectives set out within pursuit statements. Make this contingent on the challenges that individuals set for themselves. Some pursuit statements are more challenging than others and should be recognized as such. Seniors should always push juniors to strive for challenge but also limit those challenges so that they are achievable as well.