One of my previous jobs required strong organizational skills, the practice of constantly setting (and communicating) priorities, and the ability to track thousands of pieces of work to meet tight deadlines. I had to really pay attention. And my co-workers were convinced that all it took to distract me was a shiny paper clip.
Sometimes that shiny paper clip took the form of phone calls, endless cups of coffee, quoting from last night’s sitcom, a really good song on the radio, or a knock-knock joke.
Businesses, churches, and other organizations have long understood that to pay attention and keep on track that they need to work from clear vision and mission statements. Everything that is done is looked at through the lens of those statements. When deciding what direction, program or activity to expend resources on, if it doesn’t fit with their vision and mission, they won’t pursue it. It keeps them focused and on track with what they want to accomplish.
Here are some quick definitions: “A vision statement is a picture of your organization in the future. It is your inspiration and the framework for all your strategic planning. A vision statement articulates your dreams and hopes for your business. It reminds you of what you are trying to build.”
“A mission statement is a brief description of a company's fundamental purpose. It answers the question, "Why do we exist?" The mission statement articulates the company's purpose both for those in the organization and for the public.” (http://sbinfocanada.about.com/od/businessplanning/g/visionstatement.htm)
I tend to look at the vision as ‘what’ and the mission as ‘how’.
Amazon’s vision is "to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online."
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said that their vision is "We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products.” (Read his complete statement at http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2009/01/22/the-cook-doctrine-at-apple/)
Our vision at Hartline Literary Agency is “to find the finest in new and established authors. Our common goal is to help authors grow and develop their careers.” (You can see our entire statement at http://www.hartlineliterary.com/statement.html)
The concept of creating and working from a vision statement and a mission statement is a concept that can be put into practice by every person with a goal or something that they are trying to accomplish in life. When I was in youth ministry I had a personal vision and mission statement.
As a writer, have you thought much about your vision and mission? Have you articulated it in your proposals? Look at the two definitions above and substitute the words ‘organization, business and company’ with ‘I, my, me, and mine’.
I began to think again about vision and mission statements when reading through manuscripts that did not live up to the proposals. Especially non-fiction. They wandered and got off track. There were too many detours into territory that did not strongly support the message of the book. There were distractions.
Staying on course with a personal vision and mission statement helps to filter out the activities and content that will hinder us from the effective and efficient delivery of our message. It can be a good weapon in the fight against the shiny paper clips.
What’s your shiny paper clip?