What has flat packed furniture got to do with it?

Almost all organisations have a mission, a vision and set of values.  They are seen as fundamental to any organisation’s identity strategy and culture, setting out what the organisation does, why it does what it does and how it intends to do go about doing it. But what do all of these terms really mean? What is the difference between a mission and a vision?  Why have a set of values at all? 

Over the coming months we’ll be exploring our own mission, vision and values and why they are important to us.   Before we do that, let’s first explore what terms actually mean and how other organisations use them.  

 Let’s start with a company we are all familiar with, Ikea.  Most of us, at one time or another, have likely had a piece of furniture from Ikea in our homes.  We are comfortable with Ikea products and trust the brand. The comfort and trust come partly from our lived experience of the products we have in our homes, but also from our understanding of what Ikea is, captured in their own mission and vision statements.  

Mission: Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.  

Vision: To create a better everyday life for many people.  

And who can argue with that? Well designed, functional, affordable furniture that makes everyday life a little bit better.  Sounds great. And it must be, because Ikea continues to be a household name, a household presence in fact, across the UK.  

So, let’s unpick those statements, starting with the Mission.  This is describing what Ikea do.  Any good mission statement is simply a statement of what the organisation does and nothing more than that. 

AT BDMAT, at the heart of our mission, is the statement to provide high quality education within a Christian framework that allows all pupils to reach their full potential.  It’s a simple statement and a simple concept. 

At least in theory!  Actually delivering a high-quality education to all pupils is, as we all know, quite a challenge in the context of a funding crisis, building crisis and cost of living crisis.  But, achieving great things is never easy.  As JFK said, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”  

We refer to JFK here, deliberately, because he is often hailed as a visionary. His speech about going to the moon is packed full of visionary statements, phrases like “we set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained”.  So, lets now explore what a vision statement is.  

A vision statement is aspirational, its sets the future direction of an organisation, the future ambitions of the organisation.  Back to Earth and to Ikea.  Their vision is to create a better everyday life for people. In many ways, the BDMAT vision is not so very different from Ikea’s. We want to create a better life for children, to create a future where pupils and staff enjoy ‘life in its fullness’. 

This extends way beyond the boundaries of the classroom or school playing fields, it extends beyond the years pupils will spend in our schools, it extends decades into the future because, what we do for our children today, will have a lasting impact on their whole lives.  Educating children is both a huge honour and weighty responsibility because our actions today do have such long lasting implications for children.   

Let’s be really honest for a moment.  We don’t work in the education sector for the salary and perks, do we?  Teacher recruitment and retention is at an all-time low and we live in a world where people increasingly have multiple careers.  Education, for me – and hopefully for you – isn’t a job, a profession, or even a career.  It’s more than that. Much more.  Some will describe it as a passion, others a calling, or a personal mission.  It’s all of those things, though, isn’t it.  For those of you familiar with the concept – it’s Ikigai (which we’ll come back to in a future post). 

Setting a clear vision and mission for the organisation is great – it provides purpose and meaning to what we do.  When this is aligned to our own personal beliefs (our ikigai), well that’s when special things can start to happen.  But there is one more important ingredient to consider.  Having established what we do and why we do it, we also need to look at how we do it – that is the organisation’s values. 

This sounds a lot like another word commonly used when looking at how organisation’s work – “culture”.  Values really matter because they define an organisation’s culture.  Whilst the mission and vision statements are important because they provide purpose and direction, it is only with a strong set of values that an organisation can be successful.  Values are the way an organisation commits to working — a statement of how an organisation does what it does and the principles by which it will consistently abide. 

 The saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast” has become something of a cliché and under-values the importance of strategy, but it has become a cliché because culture is so important to any organisation.  

A positive culture comes from a clear set of values and lived experience of those values, providing staff with a secure, supportive and trusting working environment.    An environment where staff feel trusted and empowered, where innovation is welcomed.  An environment where collaboration and teamwork are the norm.  An environment that provides staff with the psychological safety to make mistakes and learn from them.  

All organisations have a set of values – the word used to describe an organisation’s values will vary between organisations, but there is general consistency across the world – you’ll often find values like integrity, openness, honesty, particularly in the public sector where the 7 Nolan Principles of Public Life have a significant influence.  What is really important, though, is staff recognise those values, understand the meaning behind them and live them out. 

At BDMAT we have a set of values, but much more than that we have an expectation that we all live out those values every day, in every interaction.  We strive to be a truly values led organisation.  Over the coming weeks, we’ll be focussing on our values, why they are important to us, and how we live out our values every day.