Want to See An Organization’s Mission? Check out the Checkout.

cashregisteroldThis posting is more about the sort of work I do professionally, which is in the area of organizational learning. You know . . . the stuff we are sometimes told we have to learn for this or that reason, often following some learning objectives we were given and at times without a clear understand for how we can make use of it once it is learned?

I may exaggerate a bit here, but bear with me for a moment.


Invert Learning

This is the area that I think about . . . a lot. How can we try to invert learning, if you will, from something we think we need for only this or that work reason or to put out some fire, and reframe it as learning for a higher purpose.

No, I don’t quite mean THAT higher purpose, but rather as something linked to the organization’s mission and vision? Come to think of it, do you know your organization’s mission or vision? If so, is just knowing it enough?


Case in Point . . .

Earlier this week I visited a new supermarket in the neighborhood, one that I did not know was a specialty chain until I looked it up online, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, I went into this market at 10:30 on a weeknight. It was brightly lit, cool with air conditioning, spotlessly clean, inviting, and filled with employees stocking shelves and helping customers.

Yes, you heard that right . . . there were literally dozens of customers and the many employees were actually HELPING them. Not just pointing or motioning, but actually stopping their work, standing, making eye contact, bringing people to what was requested, smiling, and being professional, polite, and cheerful. 

This happened throughout the store.

Being my first time there, and given how some stores do not follow the cookie-cutter mold of store design, I actually spoke with 4 members of the staff about 4 different things I wanted, and was treated in the same way by all of them, across the store, on both levels (Manhattan has its own ways of handling space). Even when I got to the checkout I was greeted with a smile, complimented on my glasses, chatted up about the yogurt I bought (everybody seems to love Greek yogurt), invited to join their loyalty program (that does not force me to carry a silly card with me), and left the store laughing due in part to the friendly banter with the person who left the final impression on me, one of positive energy that capped a great overall customer experience.

Wondering at this, I went home and looked on their website to try to understand what just happened, and it was there that I saw it, the Mission. The company had it on their About Us page. Let me clarify . . . their visually represented Mission was their page.


Organizational Mission

Lots of organizations have mission statements and vision statements, but what many of them seem to lack is an authentic experience of their employees actually living it or doing it.

What does this all have to do with education, which is how I started this off?

I believe this is what good organizational learning is—it infuses everything it does to support, connect, and engage the work tasks with furthering the mission and vision.

After all, what is the point of professional learning if it does not help to move toward the mission and vision?

Look at your own checkouts; do you see staff who live the mission, just know what the mission is, or just work . . . to get it done? I am not sure about you, but I do not often leave supermarkets with a smile and want to know more about them. Do people do that when they finish interacting with your company?

Now, don’t limit this to supermarkets. I believe this perspective is applicable to all our work. Do your client efforts, contact, and customer experience—the very places where the mission and vision face reality—exemplify why your organization exists? Let me state it in a different way; do you and your staff live the Mission, allowing it to influence and guide your actions and interactions, or is it just a page of words that sound nice but do not really make a difference in practice? Can we see traces of the Mission in how people act and interact, or do we need to ask about what the Mission is?

Pretty scary if not, as that is where the revenue stream begins, or perhaps ends. This is what organizational learning and development should be all about–teaching people how to do their work in ways that support reaching and realizing the mission and vision. Training or learning within organizations is not a nice to have or regulatory check box, it should be a fundamental onboarding to the Mission and Vision, namely linked in to every reason why an organization exists, and how it can be supported by all members within an organization.


This is an adaption of a post that first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

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