Focus on one compelling Mission statement – keep it simple, and succeed!

High-performance teams typically consist of individuals with diverse personalities and backgrounds who share a common purpose. The benefits of diversity include promoting healthy conflict and ‘outside the box’ thinking to resolve difficult issues.

Of course, diversity comes with its own issues. A team can easily lose focus and start working against each other without a clearly defined purpose.

Clear Purpose

A group lacking a clear purpose may eventually achieve its desired results however its members are more likely to work inefficiently while working towards their end goal. Even team members with the best intentions can find themselves duplicating tasks or heading in the wrong direction.

The team leader can convey the purpose in the form of a clear, concise mission. When a clear purpose is provided from the beginning, team members become better equipped to deal with rapid change while continuing on their path towards achieving the mission. They become capable of making informed decisions, while maintaining focus and direction.

The Complex Becomes Simple

When an elite military tactical team is given an operation, no matter how complex the situation may seem, the ‘mission’ is reduced to a minimum short statement.

During a single operation a tactical team may be tasked with all of the following goals:

  • Patrolling through a war zone
  • Reaching multiple checkpoints
  • Relaying regular updates to a command post
  • Supporting other teams
  • Locating a building containing hostages
  • Dealing with any threats
  • Safely removing the hostages from the area
  • Extract the hostages and teams to a specific location
  • Return to base by helicopter

When the situation changes dramatically, as it inevitably does, the mission must remain the primary focus for the team. If the mission statement contained all of the points listed above, it would become overly complex. When team members are required to make split second decisions in dynamic situations, they will struggle to prioritise all of the goals and choose the best path. There is a high probability that team members could make critical decisions which lead them away from their main objective.

The main objectives need to be summarised and clarified in the form of a mission statement for all to understand. Teams should be able to base their decisions on a simple statement which is easily recalled.

Mission Focus

Imagine the same team is given a clear mission statement during the operation briefing which simply reads ‘To save the lives of the hostages‘. The team still must aim to achieve their objectives step by step during the operation however team members are left with no doubt as to what their primary focus will be at any given time.

Now if the team are executing the operation and are fired upon unexpectedly by the enemy prior to reaching the hostage location, mission focused decisions can be made. In this scenario the team returns fire and the enemy fire back. They have the capability and resources to deal with the enemy there and then, and could chase them down.

The team has two obvious choices: a) eliminate the enemy first then attempt to rescue the hostages; or b) continue moving towards the hostages. Even in the middle of a fire fight with the enemy, team members can easily recall the mission ‘To save the lives of the hostages‘. Their actions will be in sync as they continue moving towards the hostage building. If some or all of the team choose to waste time chasing the enemy, hostages may be killed, in which case they have failed the mission.

Of course, things are never simple in the midst of rapid change (chaos) and the team can never completely ignore the threat of the enemy. They may even be fortunate enough that they can afford to drop team members off to deal with the enemy while the majority of team members continue moving towards the hostages. Even then, the shared mission focus does not change.

High Performance

By applying this principle, a high performance team is able to deal with dynamic situations and achieve maximum results. Each team member works together to achieve their common team purpose, and yet is empowered to think for themselves.

The mission focus principle can be applied to any team or organisation aiming to maximise performance.