Once upon a time there was a train full of toys, stuffed animals, dolls and balls. “Wouldn’t it be great,” said the Clown, CEO, “if all the boys and girls on the other side of the mountain had our goodies, toys and treats any time they wanted?” Everyone agreed. So they roughed out a Vision statement which said “Develop, deploy, and manage a diverse set of strategic logistics tools to serve our customers, improving overall satisfaction among our diverse customer profiles.” It sounded very business-like. Everyone knew what it meant, right? “Take a variety of toys and sweets over the mountain that all the kids will like.” Also, they decided that a good mission statement would be “seamlessly operationalize market-driven global opportunities,” which pretty much meant “get in the black asap” and they got to work.
The CEO pointed out that the most likely market was over the mountain, and besides, there was a railroad right over the top already, so the company loaded a train with anything they had in stock and set off to make their mission a reality. Which was great, until their engine broke down a mile out of town. Nobody had bothered to see if it was in working condition. So the CEO started doing some quick headhunting by tapping his network.
“hey, I need a loco-motivated guy here who can get us over this mountain,” he said. He tried to lure away people from some major logistics companies, one that specialized in heavy brown and yellow packages, and another that specialized in speedy delivery of red and blue envelopes, but nobody he went to business school with was interested in working for a startup, for half their current pay and dubiously valuable stock options.
Finally he found a kid who was just out of college. Let’s just say she was a little green behind the ears and hadn’t quite stopped watching videos with talking trains who rolled their eyeballs around and bantered with their cabooses and obeyed a clown in a top hat. She was what we’d call an “idealist” and a “go-getter” and she’d never had an opportunity before. She was hyper-motivated; even loco-motivated because she loved the vision. Her motto was “I think I can” and with a lot of effort she made it over that first mountain and delivered the goods.
The end, but not quite. Using some lingo she thought the CEO would understand, the Little Engine Who Did, said “that mountain is a silly hilly hill, homey don’t play that,” and to the board of directors she said “our methodology is unsustainable, has anyone even bothered to think about what our values are?”
Everyone said “What do you mean? We have a vision, a mission, a motivated general manager, and we’re in the black. Keep doing it!”
The Little Engine Who Did, and was happy to keep doing it, too, if only it wasn’t such a damn uphill struggle half the time, said, “We have vision: we know how we want to change the world for the better; we make children happy. We have a mission: to deliver toys to the town on the other side of the mountain. But I’m not motivated to keep making that climb, over and over, when I think there might be better ways to deliver that fit who we are more appropriately. Did anyone think about the tracks?”
“The tracks were just there,” said the giraffe, who spoke up because he always had an easy time getting a bird’s eye view, “and based on a cursory inspection they do not appear to be broken.”
“It’s not a matter of being broken or not. It works, but I’m wearing out quickly. I don’t get to see my children much, and when I do, I’m so exhausted I fall asleep before we’re done eating our KFC. I really want to do what we do, but I don’t have a high value for our traditional methodology.”
“How else could we do it?” said the CEO.
“The first two options I see are blasting a tunnel through the mountain or building a track that goes around it. Then we could consider getting a ship and sailing around to the east, or flying some of the goods in by air. Some of those methods will cost more, some will take longer, but just getting it done isn’t going to work. We need to look at other values besides just doing it this way. In this case, there isn’t a right way to do it, just different ones.”
So they wrote it out:
Vision, or how the world will change if we succeed: Kids will play and grow!
Mission: What we are doing now: Getting toys and fruit to children.
Values: How we do it and why we do it the way we do it. Where the train tracks go and why they go there.
“We have not thought about these very carefully before,” said the CEO, who felt his suspenders had broken and his pants were falling down, because they were. Hee, hee.
And that is when they called a coach to help them talk it over. The Beginning.