Cylent

Cylent
May 31, 2016 Michael Skok

Integrating Vision, Mission and Culture into a Leadership System

Introduction

Helping entrepreneurs to share their Vision and Mission and define their Culture is a vital part of my work mentoring, teaching, and of course, investing. But the hardest part is that this is a “soft” subject! That’s to say, it’s often difficult to quantify or even qualify. Yet we all know it’s critical. So in this class I was determined to find real world examples of people who’d created the vital linkage to Execution. Enter Mike Duffy, a wonderful guy and a great CEO who has done that in a tough turnaround situation and is doing it again from scratch…

Guest post from Mike Duffy, CEO Cylent Systems. Former CEO of OpenPages (Acquired by IBM)

When Michael approached me about participating in his Harvard iLab Startup Secrets event focused on Vision, Mission and Culture, I was intrigued because, in my experience, early stage companies often overlook this topic even though it can be critically important to achieve long-term success.

In many startups, the early phase of development is entirely focused on getting the product offering and value proposition right. Everyone works really hard to build the new offering, get customer acceptance and begin to generate revenue. Founders focus their hiring on the skills that are needed to accomplish these goals. And if they work really hard, and are lucky (luck’s important) they might just make it through this early phase with a team that performs well. In these situations, the company’s culture becomes loosely defined by the founder’s personalities.

Coming out of this phase, with an excited board and team, and still with an undefined culture, the company steps on the gas again and hires for the next phase of growth. This is when it can get tricky for companies that have a loosely defined vision, mission and culture. New managers and employees now join the company with their own ideas related to company culture, based on previous experiences in other companies. The founders often still attempt to lead the way they did in the beginning phase when they controlled everything easily. And conflict and confusion begin to rule.

That’s just not fun for anyone!

I believe that the best time to define Vision, Mission and Culture is RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING. The founders are best positioned to accomplish this and it always helps to solicit input from other key stakeholders such as early employees and customers. But investing the time to define clearly the Vision and Mission for your company and the culture that you aspire to develop will sew the seeds for success down the road. It also provides every stakeholder an essential component that great leaders provide: “Vision.” Once these things are developed and clearly articulated, they need to be driven into everything the company does. We should hire, evaluate and reward team members based on how they exemplify our company’s culture. The culture should define who we are and how we treat our customers, other team members, partners and everyone in our ecosystem. These principles, defined properly and emulated by enthusiastic leaders, can be so motivating for the entire team. Now, as we hit each phase of growth, or pivot, we do so together. Work is fun and rewarding.

The video of Mike speaking to this in our workshop is featured below:-

And the company wins!

Back a long time ago, I actually developed my own approach to integrating Vision, Mission, and Culture into my approach to a leadership system. I had learned the hard way and wanted to help my teams to execute better and have more fun and this system really helped us. Before I wrote this article, I’d only shared it with my teams.


Footnote: Also included is a clip from the workshop where Mike explains the opportunity for Cylent in the Security space…

Please leave any comments for Mike or Startup Secrets below as usual.

Case Examples

Symantec

Symantec

Cylent

Cylent

Promoboxx

Promoboxx

Salsify

Salsify

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