Responsive Organizations are able to adapt naturally and effectively to changing market circumstances and unexpected events. Not only that, they also are better able to anticipate market needs and lead the way in the business ecosystem that they are part of. 

Where do you start in developing such a responsive organization? How do you create such energy and engagement among people that they start to move, and contribute, in coherence? 

Responsive Organizations generally have three fundamental characteristics  that provide the energy and direction for their evolution and growth: they have a strong awareness about their place and added value in their market and the ecosystem they are part of. They combine this awareness with strong imagination about the possibilities they have. Because they are very well connected with their customers and other stakeholders in their ecosystem, they have an excellent understanding how they can develop their potential, step by step.

The articulation of such awareness and imagination is most relevant if you want your company to become responsive: this is what attracts the right people to your company and draws customers to the brand of your products and services. So it had better be exciting and inspiring!

The awareness and imagination is where differentiation starts. They can be captured in your company’s ‘Vision and Mission’. Unfortunately, their value is generally underestimated. 

Test it for yourself: visit the websites of five competitors in your market. Read their vision and mission statements. How many of them feel genuine, authentic, strong and compelling? How many can you remember after having read them? Which ones feel like the directors have articulated something they could all agree on – ‘defined by committee’ – and hence have come up with something that does resemble the company, but lacks ‘soul’, let alone has energy? Even worse: the same visions and missions could easily apply to any other company in the same business. How many ‘visions’ and ‘missions’ truly energize and make you relate to the company in question? 

To add to the fun, anonymize these statements and have a little quiz with your colleagues: who can guess correctly which vision and mission belong to which competitor? Chances are nobody gets it 100% right. In other words: most competitors look alike. If that’s the case, price competition will be strong and margins will be low, because it is the only difference the customers could see.

Case in point
One of the best-known examples that hit a huge sweetspot is President Kennedy’s mission to ‘put a man on the moon’ in the nineteensixties. The energy that was fueled by this idea was so strong and compelling that it  unified a nation in ambition, confidence and hope for a better future. The foundation for this mission was of course the United States Space Program. Behind the mission was the vision that the other superpower of that time, the Sovjet Union, had to be defeated – not only in the Cold War did the USA want to express supremacy, but also in other domains, such as the Space Race. This vision of space dominance fueled the direction of the space race, and was made specific in the desire to ‘put a man on the moon’. The direction and energy united the American people and gave rise to the birth and growth of a tremendous industry. 

A similar appeal is made by Elon Musks mission to put people on Mars – the idea is so compelling that investors willingly step in, even though it will take a while before the idea comes true. 

A clear vision demonstrates a strong awareness within a company of its added value and potential in the markets it serves and the ecosystem it is part of. The ecosystem is probably equally important as the customers, because the entire industry’s ecosystem creates the cumulative value in that industry. No supplier can deliver all the technology, creativity and expertise entirely alone. So the stronger your position in your industry’s ecosystem is, the more possibilities you are able to create.

So the vision provides direction for the development of the company. It should be clear, concise and heartfelt. Examples of such visions are: ‘all humans have access to healthy food’, ‘affordable health care is possible for everyone’, ‘muffins can taste much better’. 

Subsequent to the vision, the mission provides the energy that fuels the motion of the company. The mission could also be named the ‘purpose’, the ‘central idea’ or the ‘why’ of the company. When we take the aforementioned visions as example, the accompanying missions could be something like this:

All humans have access to healthy food.Organic food in every supermarket at competitive prices.
Good health care can be accessible for everyone.Online health care insurance, affordable for everyone.
Muffins can taste much better than they do everywhere.Be acknowledged to have the best tasting muffin in the world.
Powerful visions and missions are clear, compelling and easy to remember.

Please note that with these visions and missions there is no misunderstanding about the direction and purpose of these companies. Everybody can remember them and will quickly feel whether they relate to them or not. They also imply what this means for the company’s place and role in its ecosystem. 

Let’s take the example of the muffin baker as an example: if you are that passionate about making the best tasting muffins in the world, at what lengths would you go? How would you engage your employees and lead them? Do you just source the cheapest flour? Or do you engage in discussions with flour producers with regard to their baking quality, the resulting texture? How will you engage them, and other suppliers, on how taste could be improved all of the time? How, then, does the mission reflect in your commercial audience? How do you relate to them, use their feedback, set up user groups? What are the possibilities for apps, big data? What role will you play in the bakery industry at large? What tone will you set? And how do you view your role in society? Could you help people in new ways and thus give something back?

A clear vision and powerful mission open up a whole world of possibilities for your company and they will strengthen its overall position. They get people to move with and for your company and make it more responsive.