Revisiting Mission and Vision during Times of Disruption

Revisiting Mission And Vision During Times Of Disruption Web

There is little debate that the U.S. healthcare delivery and funding model is facing perhaps its greatest period of uncertainty in decades. Significant challenges include the rise of consumerism and need for digital health solutions, an influx of new market entrants and other disruptors, and of course, the impact of a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on every aspect of our healthcare system and the economy in general. And looking ahead, there is a very high likelihood that the 117th U.S. Congress will make healthcare a signature legislative platform topic.

It is within this context that many healthcare organizations find themselves. Some are focused on mere survival, others on achieving a level of stability, and some on acceleration of their strategic direction. This is a time of tough questions and sometimes hard-to-swallow answers. In health system board rooms and C-suites, few topics garner a stronger reaction than a suggestion that the organization’s mission or vision are somehow off point. Yet it is a question that strong leaders must ask from time to time. How do an organization’s mission and vision statements stand up amid great periods of uncertainty and disruption?

These foundational statements, together with the organization’s values, collectively should be the beacon that helps guide an organization through challenging times. These statements should unify the organization and inspire action toward common goals. An organization’s mission—its purpose for being—typically does not change, even in periods of uncertainty. Its vision—its aspirational future—similarly should be enduring. But neither should be considered permanent or inflexible.

Many health systems have validated their mission and vision. Others have work to do. We can learn from other organizations and even other industries how mission and vision statements, as well as their values, bring clarity of purpose and strategic direction.

Four Lessons about Mission and Vision during Times of Disruption

1. Mission and vision statements need to be clear, inspiring, and memorable.

A mission statement should describe the impact a company wants to make. In our view, one of the most inspirational mission statements for a not-for-profit organization is that of the American Heart Association: “To be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.” The American Cancer Society’s mission is similarly compelling: “To save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.” The language in both cases is purposeful, clear, and direct.

Vision statements should be crisp and aspirational. Good examples include those by the Alzheimer’s Association (“A world without Alzheimer’s disease”) and Habitat for Humanity (“A world where everyone has a decent place to live”).

Mission and vision statements are only successful if they are known and inspiring to employees, consumers, and key stakeholders and advocates for the company.

Currently, many health systems’ mission and vision statements are too long, complex, and jargon heavy

2. Mission and vision should guide all decisions and behaviors.

The decisions an organization makes today will affect how people see the company for years to come. Employees want to be proud to stand behind their organization’s decisions and behaviors, and consumers gravitate toward companies that have a clear, unequivocal, and positive impact on the world. Ensuring those decisions are predicated on a stated mission and vision reinforces and clearly communicates the organization’s identity.

For example, CVS did this with its decision to end the sale of tobacco products. The sale of tobacco products was inconsistent with CVS’s purpose—helping people on their path to better health.1 By removing tobacco products from its stores, CVS was able to better serve its customers while positioning itself for future growth as a healthcare company.

3. Culture and values must support the mission and vision.

While strategy defines direction and focus, culture—a reflection of the organization’s values—is the environment in which strategy lives or dies. Strategy focuses on resourcefulness and skillfulness, while culture defines engagement, passion, and execution. Healthcare start-ups such as Ro and CMR Surgical have cultures that encourage creativity and new ways of thinking. With a culture of creativity, start- ups are able to achieve unprecedented change whether in virtual health, artificial intelligence, or new care delivery products. But start-ups don’t hold a monopoly on creativity. Health systems can achieve breakthroughs and overcome the challenges facing them today if their mission and vision foster a culture of resiliency and creativity

4. Mission and vision should promote agility.

Innovation is occurring at an exponential rate in healthcare. A health system’s strategy must be agile enough to continuously change with evolving customer expectations and major shifts in environmental forces. With consumers increasingly pushing for digital health and cost transparency, healthcare organizations will need to deliver a more consumer-centric care model.

Healthcare organizations can learn about evolving consumer expectations and how to redirect an organization’s strategy by following Apple’s example. In the late 1990s, when Apple was in a downward trend, then-CEO Steve Jobs announced that the company’s intent was to do a few things extraordinarily well, rather than doing lots of things just satisfactorily. Jobs cut product lines to pursue a “shrink to grow” strategy and focus on delighting customers. Four years later, Apple introduced the iPod, followed by the iPhone and iPad, and the rest is history.

Apple’s history shows how successful an organization can be if it focuses on critically evaluating its customers’ needs and finding ways to meet those needs. Many health systems have embraced this approach and have undertaken a structured evaluation of their core strategy and clinical portfolio to make their organizations more agile, while remaining true to their mission and vision.

Whether in times of economic strength and organizational stability, or in periods of uncertainty and disruption, healthcare organizations should keep their mission and vision statements top of mind and in front of their key constituents as purposeful tools to reinforce their strategic and operational decisions.

Contact ECG experts if you would like help with the mission or vision for your healthcare model.

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This article was first published by The Governance Institute in the January 2021 issue, Volume 18, No. 1. The original publication can be found here.