Tag Archives: mission

The one with the bouncing bomb

When I was a kid and still living at home the question of what film to watch together was the topic of much debate. My Dad’s automatic reaction was always, without fail “Zulu” and whatever suggestion followed would be met with the question “is there any shooting in it?” I remember the look of desperation on his face when my Mum got him to sit through “Somewhere in Time”. At time I conceded (usually in the name of pocket-money) to sitting through one of his favourites and I now proudly confess I knew most of the words to “A Bridge too Far” at an early age.  One of his recurring favourites was (and still is) “The Dambusters” and he would tell me every time we watched it that Barnes Wallis also designed the Wellington bomber. I’m sure you all know the story – it’s the quest to bounce bombs into the dams of the Ruhr valley to significantly reduce the Nazi’s ability to manufacture.

So fast forward some years to a rainy Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, herself (being a world-class potterer) was doing various things around the house and I was yet again testing the effectiveness of the sofa as a host for my relaxation when I noticed “The Dambusters” was ‘live’ on TV. So I watched it.

Yes it’s a cracking film and yes being made nearly 60 years ago hasn’t aged that well but I sat happily engrossed in the story. It was only afterwards in reflecting on the film with a man called Keith that I started to think about some of the plot and how relevant it was to modern organisations and particularly to those trying to generate traction or change.

Barnes Wallis failed on numerous occasions before he got the bomb to successfully bounce. He persisted (in a Wile E. Coyote like fashion) to believe in his vision and to solve the problems that would stop him failing. He didn’t blame anyone for the failure and didn’t start to doubt his vision or belief – he just got on with it (to the point of wading into the water to collect bomb fragments).

The planes needed to fly incredibly low (60 feet as helpfully pointed out by Lydia) and the instruments of the day couldn’t measure that low – so they used two carefully positioned torches which when lined up would indicate the height. They needed to bomb from a specific position which they couldn’t judge effectively using the available systems so they used a small wooden device that lined up the structures of the dams to indicate the required position. They didn’t admit defeat they just calmly faced the problems and solved them.

It started me thinking about how both individually and through the vast machine that must have been the government and armed forces of that time were they able to continue to persist and to get the support and resources to take something from the drawing board to success in a relatively short space of time. I got past personal dedication, commitment, stubbornness and it was in their personal objectives (!!) fairly quickly and landed on imperative. Britain needed to reduce the manufacturing capacity of the enemy otherwise the war would be lost. I think it’s what a management consultant would refer to as a burning platform. Failure wasn’t an option.

We sit in organisations every day with visions and missions, purpose statements, objectives, milestones, intents, strategic goals and all nature of terminology surrounding what the organisation is trying to achieve. If in reading them they don’t create a sense of failure not being an option then stop, think and do them again. They MUST create a sense of imperative.

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The one with the question on vision

So last week I was on the train into London and given the train ran from Tring to London (where I was headed) and I was feeling rather weary I rested my eyes for a few moments….to be woken about 20 minutes later by someone saying “I’ve literally caught you sleeping!”. Thankfully it was someone I know and it was good to catch up. During the course of the conversation the person in question, who runs a small but growing business, asked if I had any structures or exercises for developing company vision statements.

I have played with a few things but nothing that’s ever got my intellectual tuning fork ringing so when I got home some hours later I tweeted a question along the lines of “What’s the difference between mission & vision?”. After managing the responses who thought there was a punchline coming and that I was actually being serious, I got the following responses…..

Consultant @dougshaw1 posted this:

What’s the difference between mission statement and vision? the former is longer, and both are full of bullshit bingo?

Head of Comms @melbuck32 posted this:

Best answer I’ve found: Vision is what it’ll look like in the future. Mission is why it exists & how it achieves the vision

L&D Manager @floramarriot posted this:

am not a fan, but I think V is the big dream, what’s possible. M is what u do to make the dream happen

Engagement Specialist @thinkingfox posted this:

V is what the boss sees, M is what happens when marketing and HR are allowed to sanitise it

@theintrapreneur, Richard Baker posted this:

not much difference. a mission is wordy and should last. Vision is punchier ideally and fit within broader purpose/mission

Change Consultant @changeconinuum posted this:

The consultant’s fee

And followed it up with this:

what the future looks like (vision) versus what you are about (mission)

PR professional @LaraLakin posted this:

Mission is a company’s reason for being. Vision is the potential, given the status quo, that it could achieve

 

Wikipedia defines them as this:

A Mission statement tells you the fundamental purpose of the organization. It defines the customer and the critical processes. It informs you of the desired level of performance.

A Vision statement outlines what the organization wants to be, or how it wants the world in which it operates to be. It concentrates on the future. It is a source of inspiration. It provides clear decision-making criteria.

Having reviewed the responses and the wiki definition there seems to be some consensus that mission is about purpose and vision is about future but I’m still not sure if it’s really a McKinsey exercise that we’re all paying lip service to?

The original purpose of this blog was the share the answers but also try and further develop my understand, so if there’s anything anyone wants to add – feel free!

Meanwhile back to the plot, I shared some thoughts with the person I met on the train but also went sculling about to look at some vision statement from well known organisations, so Ladies & Gentlemen, line up as we play guess the vision:

  • Our Vision is to put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces.
  • To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.
  • “#######’s mission is to help people save money so they can live bet
  • To make people happy.
  • “#######‘s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

(The only hint is they are all American!)

 

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