The fastest companies have causes that they use to launch crusades. In It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business, Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton write about launching crusades.
Causes Over Visions
Jennings and Haughton contrast the definition of a cause with a vision:
- Cause - that which gives rise to an action, a motive, a principle, a belief, or purpose.
- Vision - someting perceived in a dream, trance, spell or stupor; something supernaturally revealed to a prophet.
Jennings and Haughton share example causes:
- Charles Schwab - "To be the most ethical and useful financial services company in the world."
- AOL - "To build a global medium as central to people's lives as the telephone or television, only more useful."
- Hotmail - "To revolutionize and democratize communications."
- Clear Channel - "Creating value for the shareholder."
- Telepizza - "Creating a world of Telepizza citizens."
Jennings and Haughton write:
"Unlike missions and visions, which are generally created by commitees and sufficiently watered down to please everyone, offend nobody, and motivate no
one, a cause comes from a defining moment in a leader's life."
Criteria for a Cause
Jennings and Haughton found eight criteria that were common to the causes of companies that consistently demonstrated an ability to get to market faster than their rivals:
- Causes are never goals.
- Causes big enough for crusades come from the heart.
- The best causes are big, bold, and aspirational.
- Causes are inclusive.
- Causes aren't just about profit.
- Big causes have an aha! effect.
- A cause needn't be credible to the outside world.
- Causes are expressed in few words. Disney's was building a place to "make people happy."
Turning Causes into a Crusade
Visions and missions often fail to achieve the desired objective. Discovering and creating a cause, and turning it into action is a replicable model, but it's more than hanging a plague on a wall. Jennings and Haughton write the eight steps that successful companies do:
- The leader/founder/CEO must live the cause.
- Those around the leader must also live the cause.
- All key executives and managers must be seen as living the cause.
- Everyone is invited to join the crusade.
- Those not joining the crusade are invited to leave.
- Reward activities that advance the crusade and punish those that don't.
- Constantly celebrate the cause and crusade.
- Eventually, the cause and crusade become the reason for existence.
In my experience, I would agree that a compelling "why" or purpose matters more than the actual "what" or vision. "Why" is ultimately the motivation. Whether or not a vision is compelling depends on how compelling the "why" actually is.