Why Mission Matters
The pressure of daily to-do lists, weekly status reports, and annual planning and budgeting activities can sometimes make it hard to keep your company mission top-of-mind, even though many of us – when asked – say it’s the mission that drives us. I’ve read that mission-driven organizations outperform their peers, but how do we stay focused on what really matters? And do our teams agree it’s the organization’s mission that “really matters”?
In 2012, my predecessor shut down our company for a day and invited all of our employees to celebrate DentaQuest’s (then) new mission: To Improve the Oral Health of All. After the celebration, thoroughly inspired and ready to take on the world, we all boarded the rented buses and headed out into our communities for a day of service.
That Mission Day – and taking time away from work to serve the community – was a galvanizing event that continues to be an important part of our culture. While we no longer close our business on a single day, we help each other live the mission and what it represents every day, and we celebrate the spirit of this dedication for an entire month each year. We call it Mission Month.
Our own mission at DentaQuest is bold and specific. But some missions do not directly indicate an aspect of social good. Coca Cola’s is (in brief) “to refresh the world in mind, body and spirit.” If you think about their ads, they reflect a kind of optimism that we could all use. For a company like Caterpillar – construction equipment manufacturing – you probably don’t expect a mission statement that is particularly inspiring. The Caterpillar mission is focused on enabling infrastructure growth, energy solutions, and economic development, all of which are community benefits and necessary for our future. Looking at work in the context of mission is part of what helps many of us feel like our work matters.
During Mission Month, we think about the importance of “mission” in that broader sense – not just about improving the oral health of all. We expanded the annual observance to help our company and employees support more causes that are important to them. Last year, we hosted 45 events nationwide, thanks to our people’s personal interests in addressing hunger, supporting our veterans, maintaining open green space, and more. October 2019 is DentaQuest’s eighth Mission Month, and I’m excited to be a part of it. While in Boston, I’ve been privileged to participate in Mission Month programs at the Greater Boston Food Bank and at Cradles to Crayons, and I’m planning to join my DentaQuest colleagues for volunteer work at the Food Bank again on October 8. We also host on-site volunteer activities at our offices to make it even easier for more employees to participate. All told, it amounts to thousands of hours supporting dozens of organizations. Reaching out to the community in this way gives us a different kind of opportunity to connect with our neighbors and gain broader perspective. By better understanding the overall needs of our communities and how those needs intersect, we do a better job in our day-to-day work.
DentaQuest is a double bottom line company, and I believe business and social impact should be inseparable. It’s important to me that at our quarterly company meetings, we spend just as much time talking about our people and the work they are doing to support our mission and strengthen our culture as we do talking about our corporate initiatives and business results.
At the end of the day, our job is to help people. We do that through our work, and by ensuring that our employees have a chance to support the things that matter most to them – either through Mission Month or other DentaQuest Gives Back opportunities throughout the year.
But greater bottom-line value is a benefit of having a mission – not a reason to have one. It’s only one aspect of the positive impact that a strong mission can create for employees, customers, investors, and communities in any industry.
What’s your mission? And how are you helping your teams stay focused on it?