In my last article, I described applying a simple What/Why/How framework to organizational activities in two different ways: First, I applied it recursively, to illustrate that applying this sequence of questions to any work at hand (What) generates a linked teleological hierarchy that, at a higher level, supplies meaning (Why) and, at a lower level, enables excellence (How). Second, I applied it statically, to the organization as a whole, to generate three broad classes into which organizational documentation may be categorized: Identity (Why), Strategy (What), and Execution (How). This follow-up article more fully develops that classification, using it to describe and relate the various types of documentation that mature organizations will ideally develop.

Identity (Why) - Strategy (What) - Execution (How)

Supplementing this abstract tripartite categorization, I employ the extended metaphor of a journey to help make the relationship among the types of organizational documentation more relatable.

Identity

Mission

Essential Question Metaphor
Why does this organization exist? For what higher purpose are we collectively striving? Why we traveling on this journey together; Where we are going.
Description
A Mission is a statement of organizational purpose. Mission statements frequently reference contributions to fulfilling the needs of the society in which the organization is embedded, thereby expressing that meta-level purpose within the current organizational context.

Vision

Essential Question Metaphor
What does the future state in which our mission is realized look like? What our destination looks like. What we will experience when we arrive.
Description
Vision translates the Mission into a tangible Gestalt. The gap from the Vision’s “Future State” description and the “Present State” shows length of route to travel.

Values

Essential Question Metaphor
How are we going to treat each other? How we will interact with our fellow travelers and those we meet on the journey.
Description
Values are ethical and aesthetic imperatives defining normative constraints on action allowable in advancing the Mission and working toward the Vision.

Principles

Essential Question Metaphor
On what foundational precepts & assumptions do we base our decisions? Criteria by which to evaluate alternate routes and modes of transport to our destination.
Description
Principles articulate shared foundational beliefs and mental models that provide a theory of action for organizational decision-making.

Strategy

Policies

Essential Question Metaphor
What rules do we need to operate ethically, effectively, and efficiently? Rules of the road.
Description
Policies apply Values and Principles to recurring decision contexts, translating them into clear, unambiguous guidelines.

Goals

Essential Question Metaphor
What are we trying to achieve? Next stops toward our destination.
Description
Goals decompose the Vision into actionable objectives, ideally formulated SMARTly*. Balanced Scorecard is a popular framework for identifying and categorizing strategic Goals.

*Our spin: Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic, Timed

Strategies

Essential Question Metaphor
How will we achieve our goals? Route to take (or make) to traverse those stops toward our destination.
Description
Strategies are the high-level plans to achieve established Goals.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Essential Question Metaphor
How do we know we’re achieving our goals? Compass, GPS.
Description
KPIs measure progress toward Goals. Given their high level / dependence on multiple organizational Processes as well as outside factors, they are often lagging indicators of organizational performance.

Business Model

Essential Question Metaphor
How does the organization operate as an integrated system? What mode of transport are we using?
Description
A Business Model is the high-level process model of the organization, identifying how it interacts with its environment to generate a viable, self-sustaining system. A business model describes the core value chain of suppliers, key resources and critical capabilities, the value proposition in relation to a target market and its positioning with respect to competitors, and key channels and partners in delivering its product or service.

Execution

Projects

Essential Question Metaphor
What one-time initiatives do we need to complete to implement our Strategies? Building or buying the vehicle; Surveying and building roads.
Description
A Project is a sequence of related tasks undertaken once to accomplish a defined, measurable objective within finite start and completion dates.

Processes

Essential Question Metaphor
What ongoing activities do we need to do to implement strategies? High-level driving plan.
Description
A Process is a sequence of related activities undertaken on repeated occasions or continuously to accomplish defined, measurable objectives. A process takes an input from a supplier, applies organizational resources under specified controls to enact a transformation function on the input, transforming it into an output consumed by the customer of that process.

Performance Metrics

Essential Question Metaphor
How do we know we’re executing Projects and Processes effectively? Odometer, speedometer, & other dashboard instruments.
Description
Performance Metrics measure Process or Project execution performance. They can be categorized into input, output, and outcome measures. Important process measures can be correlated as leading indicators of progress toward organizational Goals.

Systems

Essential Question Metaphor
What structures do we need to accomplish organizational activities? Automobile transmission, electrical system, …
Description
A System is a set of interrelated parts which function to accomplish an objective. Systems are the structures which enable Project and Process execution.

Procedures & Work Instructions

Essential Question Metaphor
How do we most efficiently & effectively carry out our recurring Processes? Packing list; Vehicle maintenance checklists.
Description
A Procedure decomposes part of all of a Process into actionable, efficient work units that can be assigned to resources and executed within the constraints defined by Policies. Work Instructions specify Procedural work at the most granular, step-by-step level.

Work Records

Essential Question Metaphor
How do we document execution of our processes & projects? Journal of your journey; Car maintenance record
Description
Work Records provide audit trail for compliance verification and a historical record to analyze for continual improvement.

How you keep the “why” and “how” aligned with the “what” of work in your organization? Tag TaskTrain on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to let us know!

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