The Success of Your Company’s Mission Hinges On The Answer To “What’s Your Job?”

Start small and focus your efforts on your mission.  You’ve probably heard this at some point, but it’s hard to do.  How do you know if your perception of focus is, well, out of focus?  Your employees can be the best reflection of reality.

“If your employees or people connected to your company can’t tell you how the given mission of your company would affect a decision they have to make, then you are probably not staying focused enough,” says Seventh Generation’s Jeffrey Hollender.

In 1994 Interface set a gutsy goal called Mission Zero to be waste-free by 2020.  Today, Interface is well on the way toward its goal and has eliminated hundreds of millions of dollars in waste, as well as increased sales by more than $1 billion.  That is astonishing progress, which is best understood (and replicated) by looking at how Interface translated its mission to the purpose and actions of every employee.

During an executive immersion program at an InterfaceFLOR carpet plant in Georgia, a senior leader of a large multinational corporation asked a forklift driver for directions. After he had given her directions she asked what his job was.

“My job is saving the planet.”

Surprised by his answer, the executive followed up with more questions about his experience at Interface. After several minutes, the driver became increasingly anxious and said,

“I’m sorry, ma’am. I have to go. Because if I don’t get this delivered soon, it will slow down our line, making more waste and pollution and hurting the planet, not saving it.”

Not only does this driver understand his company’s mission (the what and the why), he understands precisely how each of his actions contribute to (or hinder) this mission. Do your employees understand why your company mission is what it is and how the world will be different because of it? Do they know how each of their actions or interactions advance it? Do you?

This story comes from Adam Werbach’s “Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto.”

Image credit: Sealey Warehouse

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