Stephanie Burton

Using Your Mission, Vision and Values to Impact Culture

By Stephanie Burton on February 2, 2016

Discover how redefining mission, vision and value statements can influence a health system’s brand reputation

“Stephanie, if you make me touch our mission statement, I’m going to kill you.”

These were the words I heard recently while working on a rebranding effort. While a mission statement may not be worth dying over, it’s definitely worth a few bumps and bruises. In fact, placing your vision statement, mission statement and values under the microscope is the first step to rebuilding your brand.

I know this is never an easy feat. We’re challenged with committees, boards, think tanks, workgroups and task forces to scrutinize, dissect and pick apart statements that are supposed to be inspiring. More often than not, we’re left with words that carry very little meaning to anyone other than those who crafted them.

And, the process is emotional. Very emotional. Especially when the product is creating an experience for people during the most vulnerable times in their lives. This is why developing a brand for health systems is often much more difficult than other companies.

Here are a few tips to make the process a little less painful.

(Re)Examine Your Vision

What is your health system’s desired state of being? If you can answer this question in one sentence, you’ve created a vision. The best vision statements are simple. Let’s take a cue from a few organizations that have done this well:

Vision statements often incorporate the health system’s “why” and serve as a decision-making tool. 

(Re)Define Your Mission

Mission statements get to the “how.” How will your organization achieve its vision? It’s that simple.

Here is my favorite health system mission statement:

“To heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities we serve.”

In full disclosure, this is the mission statement of one of our clients, Owensboro Health. But, we recommended leaving this mission statement untouched. Why? Because 100 percent of Owensboro Health employees are able to recite it word for word – a testament to the power of simplicity. Not only are they able to recite it, they believe it. In fact, it’s the mission statement that has attracted a number of their star performers.

Repeat after me: “If we say everything, our audience hears nothing.” If your audience can only hear one thing, what would it be? Make this a part of your mission.

(Re)Evaluate Your Values

We often ask companies whether values are truly engrained in the culture, or if they are merely wall decorations. The best organizations have incorporated their values into how their business is conducted. They’re incorporated in employee orientation programs, recognition efforts and annual appraisals. Most importantly, values are evident in every human interaction.

But, health systems often lean toward values that are vanilla. Raise your hand if your health system claims one or more of these values:

  • Service
  • Excellence
  • Integrity
  • Safety
  • Innovation

You’re not alone. And, that’s a problem. If your health system has the same corporate values as the guy next door, how are you supposed to compete for top talent?

Additionally, make sure you do not confuse brand values with performance expectations. Values are designed to drive desired behavior, not reinforce job requirements.

Be bold with values. Instead of nouns, use adjectives and verbs to help describe the types of behaviors your organization appreciates.

Admittedly, there are a lot of battles here to initiate. But, I’d argue these are battles worth fighting. Our mission, vision and values define our brand. Our brand defines the type of care people receive. And, I’d say that’s pretty noble work.