Vision, Mission, Charter

March 16th, 2020 | Posted by Don Boylan in Leadership

I have been in leadership positions in multiple organizations across my career and I have found it useful to create a Mission, Vision, Charter document for my teams. It will help guide both their daily actions and it gives them a clear understanding of the team’s long-term goals.

Vision

The vision is the list of long-term goals of the team. It will lay out what will the organization will look like a year from now or even two years from now. The mission and charter statements are informed and should be in direct support of the vision statements. Each bullet point for the vision statement could start with “The organization’s…” and then continue with the bulleted vision statement. When I was leadership for an Incident Response team (the team that responded to high impacting outages), the vision statements I came up with were:

  • Incident response is informed, coordinated, and resolution driven.
  • Incident communication is clear, concise, and targeted.
  • Major incidents do not reoccur due to the elimination of the root cause of the failure.
  • Major Incident Response processes and Problem Management techniques are documented and well understood.

Each statement stands on its own, is concise, and is easy to understand. Each statement can be contrasted with the current state and a future state. In the current state, are all the organization’s incident communications clear, concise, and targeted? If not, what are we doing so that the future state can meet those ideals?

Vision is strategic in that we are talking about the team’s long-term goals. They are probably over a year away from being successfully implemented. Every year you should review the team’s vision statements to see if you have moved towards, or perhaps completely succeeded in, achieving those goals.

Mission

The mission statements describe what drives our daily behaviors. They are not what the team does on a daily basis, but why the team is doing those tasks. Each statement in the list of mission objectives could be preceded with “Our team…” and then the bullet point. Again, using my experience as the leader of the Incident Response Team, these were the mission statements I came up with:

  • Ensures that support team engagement and organizational communication related to major incidents are coordinated and enable cost effective resolution.
  • Facilitates the uncovering of underlying faults that produce significant outages and coordinate the response to those identified issues.
  • Owns the implementation and improvement of the holistic major incident and problem management processes.

Mission statements are tactical in nature. They are the drivers for the team’s behavior, and these drivers need to be stable for a considerable time. Mission statements should be reviewed annually and tweaked if needed, but frequent substantial changes will cause undue confusion and stress in the team.

Charter

The charter statements are what the team members perform in the daily activities to achieve the mission and vision statements. Each statement could be preceded with “In my daily job, I…”. Here is the list I came up with for the Incident Response team:

  • Coordinate response to issues and engage the appropriate teams.
  • Create and link problem tickets to the underlying incident tickets.
  • Coordinate follow up meeting after major incidents and facilitate RCA efforts.
  • Follow up with groups assigned to problem investigations that are in risk of stalling.
  • Mine data for repeat issues that have the same root cause.

This list is abbreviated. The full list included training, documentation, reporting, etc. These charter statements are operational in nature and could change frequently. If the team’s senior director decides that they want a slide in the weekly operational meeting’s deck detailing what major incidents happened over the last week, then that element gets added to the charter’s list.

You may have noticed that throughout this document, I’ve used the phrase “I came up with…”. This is not the optimal way to create a Vision, Mission, Charter document. As a leader, I should come to the table with a good understanding of what I think should be in the document (especially the vision statements), but the actual creation of the document needs to be a collaborative effort engaging the team that will be implementing the plan. It is critical to get buy-in from the team and ensure that, as they are tasked with different operational requests, they understand how what they are doing supports the tactical and strategic objectives. It is also quite interesting to facilitate that discussion. Many contributors will disagree on certain points or use different language to describe the same activity. I would suggest scheduling at least an hour to have this discussion with your team.

Lastly, even though the list of charter statements can be a little lengthy depending on the scope of work the team performs, the list of vision and mission statements should be kept to a minimum. Having lengthy strategic and tactical goals can lead to directionless behavior.

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