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Creating Organizational Philosophy

Raj K. Shrestha, MBA
Chair, Board of Trustees, Nepalese Association of Connecticut
Charter President of HCEC Lions Club and
Chair, Specialty Clubs Committee, Lions District 23B Connecticut.

Winning leaders create an organizational philosophy to give people a clear sense of what the organization stands for, where it is headed, and what they must do to help it to succeed. In this type of organization, members feel committed, motivated, valued, and energized.

The organizational philosophy consists of the mission, vision, and core values. Together, these elements give people a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, and a sense of what’s right and wrong. The philosophy will serve as the driving force for the organization and improve the chances of achieving its goals. When the philosophy is meaningful and backed up by leadership commitment, it can have a profound impact on members’ performance.

∙ The mission defines the purpose of the organization. It is the reason why everyone comes to work. To ensure that your mission statement is effective, it should answer the following four questions:

l. What activities do we conduct and what services do we provide?

  1. Who are our customers?
  2. What do our activities and services do for our members and customers?
  3. What makes us unique?

∙ While the mission describes the purpose, the vision describes the desired future for the organization. It requires the ability to imagine a better situation for the organization. An effective vision must be simple, short, and passionate so that it can be easily remembered by the members. It should also engage people’s emotions and provide meaning to their work.

∙ The core values help people determine what’s right and what’s wrong. These values are unique to each organization and literally drive the chapter. They tell everyone what is important, and how they should behave, solve problems, and treat people. Because people have difficulty remembering your entire mission, vision, and core values, you need to sum them up in a slogan: a brief, memorable phrase to convey what the organization is all about. The slogan tells what is important to the organization and what its members can expect.

∙ The mission, vision, and values together comprise the organizational philosophy. To create and install a widely shared organizational philosophy, take six steps:

∙ Step 1: Determine the purpose of your organization. “What business are we really in?” is a question that must be answered at the highest level of leadership. Though it sounds like an easy question, the answer only comes after several days of gut-wrenching introspection.

∙ Step 2: Establish the organization’s vision. To determine the organizational vision, the leadership team must develop a mental image of the future of the organization. The team should focus on what trends to expect in the future, and how those trends might impact the organization. You might invite someone who is knowledgeable about future trends to speak to the group.

∙ Step 3. Define the organization’s values. To identify the values that will guide people as they make decisions, your leadership team must answer these questions: What’s important to me? What’s important to our organization? What’s important to our community and our members? The leadership team should narrow its initial list to the five most important values. At this point, the mission, vision, and core values have been identified, so the philosophy statement is complete. Next, you must return to the organization and get the approval from the members.

∙ Step 4. Translate the philosophy into a slogan. When people hear the organization’s new philosophy presented to them as a finished product, many of them will be skeptical. Therefore, it is best to begin by distributing the philosophy statement to all members as a draft, together with a feedback sheet. Ask them to review and discuss the document with each other and to give you their feedback, questions, and concerns.

At the same time, conduct a slogan contest to generate excitement and participation. Offer prizes in various categories, and a grand prize for the entry that will be used by the organization. The primary goal of the slogan contest is to get all the members involved so everyone will assume ownership of the philosophy statement. The secondary goal is to create a memorable, concise slogan that provides meaning to every member.

∙ Step 5: Communicate philosophy. Although a philosophy provides a good start, it will only make an impact if it is widely communicated and understood. All your members should see the philosophy statement every day. It can be featured prominently on bulletin boards, posters, screensavers, letterheads, and business cards.

The most effective way to instill the philosophy in your members is through constant reinforcement by every member of the leadership team. This should be done during new members’ orientations, meetings, training sessions, and at every opportunity.

∙ Step 6. Develop action plans. Action plans transform the philosophy into reality. To create them, conduct a planning meeting with your leadership team and invite some other members to bring input from the membership level. Once you’ve completed this process, and implemented your strategic plan, every one of your members will be ready to totally focus on attaining the mission, vision, core values, and critical success factors.

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