The more I work to bring military wisdom to businesses and executives, the more I see the power of mission analysis in action. In fact, I find this so important, that this month’s newsletter is adapted from my book, Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles. I want to offer this powerful tool of motivation and alignment so as many people as possible can benefit.

In standard military terms, a mission is a clear, concise statement of the task of the unit and its purpose. The interesting thing though is that the mission doesn’t come directly from the superior commander’s orders, but rather as the result of a process of analysis by the subordinate commander. The easiest way to apply mission analysis in business is to answer the following questions.

  1. What are the vision, mission, and intent of the whole organization?
  2. What are my immediate superior’s vision, mission, intent, and concept of operations for our part of the organization?
  3. What explicit tasks, roles, and functions within the greater concept of operations has my immediate superior given me?
  4. Are there implied tasks that are required to support these assigned tasks?
  5. What are the limitations on my freedom of action? In other words, are there constraints (musts) and restraints (must not’s) I must follow?
  6. What can I observe, infer, and assume from the foregoing?
  7. What is the most concise statement of my mission?
  8. How has the situation evolved since the last time I answered these questions? Has it changed, or is it similar to the previous round of analysis?

From these questions, anybody can formulate a mission that fits into the bigger picture of the organization they are part of. In other words, you can’t formulate your mission statement and make your own plan of action, statement of intent and end state, without first determining how you fit into the puzzle.

To illustrate the application of mission analysis to business, let’s imagine that you are a sales manager with a small manufacturer of custom packaging for cosmetics and generic pharmaceuticals. The packaging is similar for both types of products as are the suppliers, production, and warehousing. The sales and distribution channels are completely different as are the nature of the buyers, marketing, merchandising, and promotion. The CEO, also the company’s majority shareholder, wants to double the company’s size within four years, expanding the customer base to all of North America from its current concentration in eastern Canada and New England. The vision is to become a leading producer of quality packaging for the entire pharmaceuticals and cosmetics industries in all of North America. The new strategy entails an expansion from generic pharmaceuticals manufacturers to all pharmaceuticals companies, particularly those providing over-the-counter drugs because it’s felt that the packaging is similar to that of cosmetics. There are also many similarities in distribution and merchandising. The company’s mission, therefore, is to provide integrated, quality packaging solutions at reasonable cost for the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics manufacturers in all of North America. It will do this by providing a complete packaging solution. All the pharmaceutical or cosmetic manufacturer need do is ship the product to the company’s facilities and it will do the rest, including sourcing inputs, designing the packaging and instructions, doing the packing and warehousing, shipping to distributors, etc. In other words, they are aiming to provide an end-to-end solution for manufacturers of generic pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

The senior team has developed a strategy based on three major business thrusts: grow the pharmaceuticals business; grow the cosmetics business; grow the capabilities to provide end-to-end packaging solutions to these customer groups. The company has traditionally had only one sales team, but with the new strategy, the CEO decided to split the company into three groups to focus on each thrust. There is therefore a VP for each of Pharmaceuticals, Cosmetics, and Operations, and each has been given wide freedom of action to execute the strategy within his or her area. You are now part of the pharmaceuticals group, responsible for developing the over-the-counter drug segment. VP Pharmaceuticals’ intent and concept are shown in the table below, as is your mission analysis.

1.    CEO’s vision and intent
Vision: Become a leading producer of high quality packaging for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics manufacturers in all of North America
Objective: Double size within four years and expand customer base to all of North America from current concentration in Eastern Canada and New England.
Mission: Provide integrated high quality packaging solutions at reasonable cost for both markets.
Concept: Provide an end-to-end solution for manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Separate sales groups with one production and operations group servicing sales in both markets. Use mass customization approach for tailored customer solutions while optimizing efficiencies and economies of scale.

2.    VP Pharma’s intent and concept of operations
Vision: Preferred supplier of integrated packaging solutions for all major pharma manufacturers in North America wanting high quality packaging.
Objectives: Maintain generic pharma clients; reach all OTC drugs manufacturers as customers within 2 years; reach all other pharma manufacturers within 4 years.
Mission/Intent: Provide integrated packaging solutions so the pharma manufacturers can focus on developing and marketing their products, and not worry about packaging logistics.
Concept: Three sales teams focusing on three distinct client groups; generic sales team to expand to North America; create OTC sales team and build on existing client relationships in current clients to offer OTC packaging solutions, then extend to other companies; expand from OTC clients into other areas of pharma manufacturers and build sales team for proprietary pharma manufacturers as required.

3.    Assigned tasks
Develop the OTC manufacturers clientele.

4.    Implied tasks
Build a sales team; leverage existing relationships in generic pharma companies that also have OTC products; lay the groundwork to extend the same model to pharma companies that focus on proprietary drugs.

5.    Limitations
Must reach all OTC manufacturers within 2 years and all other pharma companies with OTC products within 4 years. Can go faster as opportunities arise.

6.    Observations, inferences, and assumptions
I infer from the foregoing analysis that the OTC sales effort is the critical one for the company, because it provides the bridge from existing relationships in current generic drug manufacturers to all other pharma companies. While OTC clients will be a major revenue source in and of themselves, the companies with proprietary pharmaceuticals form the bulk of the sector and that is where our company’s major future growth will come from. I therefore assume that the OTC sales team will be a priority for growth and resourcing over the next 2 years.

7.    Mission statement
Our mission is to expand existing client relationships in generic pharma to OTC drugs with a view to transferring this expertise to the proprietary pharmaceuticals manufacturers, first through OTC products, and then in support of all their other pharmaceutical products.

8.    Has the situation changed?
As the situation evolves in the next few years, you sit down with your team on a regular basis, or as needed, and redo this mission analysis to confirm that you’re still on the right track.

This notional illustration of mission analysis leads to a few critical observations. The first is that mission analysis is a dynamic process. Whether it is at the corporate, divisional, or team levels, the situation must be constantly assessed to determine whether the mission and goals are still relevant and, more importantly, still within the bounds of the superior manager’s intent and concept of operations. The second point is that the mission statement for any particular executive and sub-organization tends to flow of necessity from the analysis. Once the first five steps of the process have been done, the mission statement tends to be obvious. The final and most important point is that mission analysis is the glue that holds the whole framework of nested hierarchical planning together. Mission analysis enables managers and employees at all levels of the organization, no matter what their role or tasks, to fit into the big picture and know their mission. This empowers everyone to exercise initiative to achieve the vision and mission of the organization.

© Alcera Consulting Inc. 2013. We encourage the sharing of this information and forwarding of this email with attribution. All other rights reserved.

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