Sal awoke on Monday morning with one seemingly innocent goal in mind: file the first-ever request with the city to serve beer at the annual community homecoming festival. Before noon, the local paper learned about the permit, and by the following morning, the phone calls began.

Then came the petition drive, followed by an organized protest at the festival gates, along with a boycott by concerned families. Sal’s simple goal had trod upon cherished values, incurring a loss of revenue and reputation. Too bad Sal didn’t know about PVMGO.

This tool virtually guarantees that an organization will stay on a true course that provides an enjoyable productive cruise and a satisfying welcome at portside. To embark without PVMGO is to sail without a map or compass, ending shattered on the rocks. In practice, “Philosophy through Objectives” not only forms the critical core of the program planning cycle (described in the December 2006 “Manager’s Toolbox”) but also provides a self-reinforcing hierarchy that is half inspiration, half responsibility.

Ironically, leaders implementing PVMGO across a wide variety of organizations often encounter resistance from many staff members. Although a few co-workers consider it unnecessary, some reluctance stems from misunderstanding the precise definitions of the concepts listed below. Unfortunately, these terms have been used as synonyms for one another, robbing them of their unique but interconnected meanings. A good way to demonstrate the differences among them is to pose a fundamental question for each.

“P” = Philosophy (Why)

The root questions are, “What do we value and believe, and why do we continue to value and believe it?” The answers begin with each staff member’s personal individual values and beliefs, because it is the collective sum of these that actually forms an organization’s core values and beliefs (just as the people served by the organization form community values). Although this system requires periodic review, it likely remains quite stable for long periods of time. It becomes, therefore, the solid foundation on which all else is built.

And what are values? They are essential and enduring concepts or truths that guide personal (and organizational and societal) behavior toward achieving desirable outcomes. During Europe’s “Era of Discovery” (circa 1400-1700) for example, the ethos of the day promoted human expression through overseas exploration (See Figure 1).

“V” = Vision (When and Where)

“When we get there, how will the future be different by our upholding and applying our values and beliefs?” While values and beliefs remain relatively constant, proactive leaders subscribe to the notion that the future can be shaped; it is not predetermined. Envisioning a world-to-be influenced by the organization’s philosophy evokes inspiration and forward thinking among the staff and supporters. Many a young sailor was enticed to sea by visions of uncharted waters and unseen lands.

“M” = Mission (What)

“What is it that we actually do to achieve our vision?” A dream cannot be realized without concrete action, and the mission provides the map or blueprint. It is the overall plan, stated in the present tense, realistically depicting or describing the achieved vision. Columbus’s explicit orders were to sail westward to discover a passage to the Eastern world.

“G” = Goals (How)

“How will we accomplish the intermediate steps or stages that will help us complete our mission?” This is the point at which a timeline is developed, enumerating targets and completion dates. To prepare to sail, maps must be consulted, supplies laid-in, and a crew (staff) recruited and trained.

“O” = Objectives (Who)

“What am I going to do now to accomplish my individual and organizational goals?” These are the moment-to-moment, day-by-day duties required to navigate from homeport to the envisioned distant shore, requiring a detailed script listing coordinated actions and outputs, along with the particular individuals responsible for implementing them.

A Practical Scenario

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