What is your why?
More and more you hear companies talk about alignment. I think the most overused paradigm floating these days is finding your "north star".
Broadly speaking it makes sense. At Litmus we talk about our unofficial mission to "make email better". We want everyone to think about that as they work on product or talk with customers.
When I saw this quote by 2018 Boston Marathon champion Des Linden - it reminded me of this. What is your company's why? What is your team's why? When things get hard will people bail or will they rally around this why?
What if my why isn't your why?
At Litmus we've had great success with a core group that is passionate about email and the email industry. We surround that group with others who love solving hard problems and creating a first class user experience.
Which I guess brings me to a question I've had recently. Does everyone in the company need to rally around some kind of common mission?
For example, you could be a killer accountant. You could be really passionate about accounting, GAAP and balance sheets, etc. And any company would be lucky to have you. But you don't care about software or widgets or whatever the company's mission is. Is that ok? What if that person were an engineer or a product manager? What if they were a Director or VP or C level employee? Is there a level at which you need that passion for your company's mission?
Are missions just marketing?
You could argue that the mission statement is more for external audiences than internal ones. It's a way of broadcasting the core intent of your business. And it may attract some employees who are passionate about that specific space. And you do really need a core group of those people.
In the for profit, at will employment, world of software I suspect that even your most passionate employees would stop coming to work if you stopped paying them. Even if they felt strongly about the mission.
More than just a mission
In the competitive marketplace for both employees and customers you need to have more than just a "mission". At Litmus we talk about our values and printed up these beautful cards to share them.
What's missing? There's no talk about email or our products. There's no corporate goals or strategy. Ultimately, for our team, this is our why. Caring, being considerate, acting humbly and with confidence, collaborating and being active in the world beyond just our company. If we can all align on these - the corporate mission statement, the "north star" - becomes just another part of the story. No matter what your role is - tech support or ceo - you can align on these values. With every action you take you can look at these and say "does this align with how we want to work?".
Products will change. The market will change. Today we might be focused on a specific customer persona and next quarter, next year, that could change. Values like these persist. When things get tough as they inevitably will - alignment on values will become more important than alignment on a specific mission.