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The Toolkit – Part 1: Foundations (9) – stable vision, evolving mission

This post is part of the working draft of the DriverlessCrocodile Toolkit (read more here). I’d love comments, links to resources related to the theme, and original contributions.

Once you’ve got a clear vision (the “why” of what you do) and a clear mission (how you think you’re going to do it), we’re almost ready to move on to the “what” – the things your team is going to do that will enable you to achieve your mission and work towards fulfilling your vision.

It’s worth noting here that some while some visions do get finished (“We envision a future where there’s an enormous statue of a crocodile in the town square”), the majority don’t. Even those with a specific, finishable goal often suggest an open ended activity at the next level up: “We envision a future in which our beautiful and enormous statue is kept clean and well maintained so that future generations can admire its teeth.”

Mission statements usually have shorter time horizons. They should be stable in the short term, and stable but open to question in the medium term because:

  • The most effective way of achieving a given vision will change as the context, including available resources and tools, changes
  • You might have been wrong about the best way to go about achieving your vision in the first place

For example, the vision of Saya Suka Membaca (“We work for a future where all children across Indonesia have the opportunity to learn to read, and to love reading.”) is not something that can ever be finally achieved and laid to rest – at very best, it’s something that might be achieved on an ongoing basis for each generation of school children.

As educational resources and the quality of classroom teaching improves, though, there may come a time when the mission (“We equip teachers, communities and families across Indonesia to help children learn to read, and to love reading.”) becomes less urgent, because most teachers, communities and families across Indonesia are already helping children to learn to love reading, and our support makes only a very small difference to achieving this.

At this point, the ‘general education’ mission for achieving our vision becomes less effective, and we might expect a switch to something like: “We equip teachers and organisations serving Indonesia’s most isolated or marginalised communities to help children from those communities to learn to read, and to love reading.” It needs some polish, but hopefully you get the idea.

Or in a world where almost everyone has a connected, digital device, the most effective way of achieving the vision might be to develop a world-class app for teaching reading. The old mission is okay for this (in a way it’s still what we might be doing) but it might be better to be specific: “Our mission is to get an effective and enjoyable reading app into the hands of every child in Indonesia.”

So there you have it: stable vision, evolving mission.

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