Why a Strategic Narrative is Worth Much More Than a Mission and Vision

Why a Strategic Narrative is Worth Much More Than a Mission and Vision

According to some books, the vision of a company is essential. Organizations sometimes spend months developing it. But do these visions and missions (often full of buzzwords) actually influence business results? In practice, we often find that they don’t. What we find much more essential is the strategic narrative that the organization tells. A good story provides employees with guidance and elicits statements like “yes! that’s who we are”.

al zo lang aan het ontwikkelen en schaven [..] dat het eindresultaat voor niemand meer herkenbaar of te onthouden was

We came across this topic because of two situations we encountered last month. One took place at a company in the business services sector, the other in the industry. Both situations have a lot in common and demonstrate the invaluable value of a strategic narrative.

We were asked to assist in implementing a new positioning and brand strategy for a business service provider. Everything had already been worked out and planned, right down to the website design. It only became clear that they had made a false start when the chosen brand name fell through and there was no strategic narrative connecting the rest of the factors. The formulated vision and mission proved to be inadequate.

The second situation was at an organization that wanted to involve us in their long-running mission and vision process. The responsible project team had been developing and refining it for so long that the end result was no longer recognizable or memorable for anyone. This became apparent when we asked the question; “So, what is the vision you have formulated?” To which the answer was that they didn’t have the paper with these few sentences on it with them and thus didn’t know.

Narrative better than mission / vision

From these and other examples, we can draw 5 reasons why a strategic narrative has more value than a mission/vision:

  • People are wired to remember stories.
  • A strategic narrative enables employees to assess any action: “Does this action align with what we want to achieve?”
  • The story provides the building blocks that can be used to promote or evaluate positioning.
  • Employees finally have a clear idea of what they can tell their friends about their employer and work during a casual conversation.
  • We usually work from large to small, so a vision and mission are much easier to formulate from a strategic narrative than the other way around.
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