4 Steps to Influence Mission "Buy-in"

How can I influence employees to "buy-in" to the mission of the organization?

by Ron Ragain, Ph.D.

As we stated in our last newsletter, the mission of an organization “is its reason for existing, its purpose, where it is headed”.  People need to know, understand and “buy-in” to the mission so that they can “get on board” and help with its accomplishment.  But how can you get them “on board”?  

Average organizations assume that people are on board when they read the mission statement, so they place signs and even plaques around their facilities, on the walls in conspicuous places, so that employees are always aware of the mission.  We call this “buy-in by proclamation” and it is a strategy that a lot of managers use when giving assignments and introducing change.  However, while awareness is essential, it is not sufficient for buy-in.  

The key is to “influence”, not to dictate or merely proclaim.   Influence is not related to “power” but rather to understanding and therefore requires communication of the impact of accepting the mission and the individual’s role in its accomplishment.  This requires communication of something more than the mere mission statement.  It requires communication of the relationship of the organization’s mission to the success of the organization, the individual and society in general.  We recommend following a 4-step process in communicating these relationships.  

  1. Articulate the importance of the mission to the success of the organization.
  2. Articulate the importance of the mission to the individual team members.
  3. Articulate the importance of the mission to society/customers.
  4. Communicate 1, 2 and 3.

While we could discuss these steps in the abstract, it might be helpful to use a specific example, so let’s use The RAD Group’s mission statement as that example.

“The RAD Group’s mission is to improve individual, team and organizational performance.  We seek to provide products and services that help leaders create a culture in which employees are skilled, motivated and able to serve all stakeholders - employees, investors/owners, customers and others.”

1.  Articulate the importance of the mission to the success of the organization.  This mission statement helps to guide our decision making relative to what products and services we develop.  Not all products and services fit with our mission and we only consider those that do.  Likewise, not all products and services that fit our mission are accepted or developed; only those that are deemed to contribute to both the success of our customers and the success of The RAD Group.

2.  Articulate the importance of the mission to the individual team members.  Every team member of The RAD Group understands that his/her success is in some part tied to the success of the organization.  Likewise, every team member understands how his/her performance impacts the success of every other team member and therefore, our ability to succeed as an organization.  Marketing impacts our image, research impacts the quality of the products and services that we develop and delivery impacts our reputation and impact on the performance of our customers.  The understanding of this connectedness increases the motivation of each of our team members to work toward the accomplishment of our mission.  

3.  Articulate the importance of the mission to society/customers.  This may sound a bit lofty, but we need to understand that if our mission does not provide value to society, and especially our customers, that there is little or no reason to exist as an organization.  We believe that what we do provides value to our customers by improving their performance and we constantly challenge ourselves to both demonstrate and increase that value.
4.  Communicate 1, 2 and 3.  While we do attempt to communicate our mission formally through papers, speeches and marketing materials, communication does not have to only be formal.  It can be done through conversation with customers and within the organization by respectfully challenging and evaluating ideas to determine if they align with the mission.  We bring our mission statement to life, not by having it on a plaque (although we do have it on our business cards as a reminder), but rather by asking ourselves regularly if our products and services are improving the individual, team and organizational performance of our customers.  We also attempt to measure that impact to help us fine tune those products and services.