If you want a culture like a Special Operations Unit, you have to be deliberate


  • The Rangers have the Ranger Creed
  • The Navy SEALs have the Navy SEAL Creed
  • The Army has the Soldier’s Creed

What guides your organization and the people in it?

If you ask any business person today, or any business student for that matter, what aligns employees in an organization, they will tell you it’s the mission statement. Ask that person what gets a company there, they will tell you it’s the vision statement. But if you ask that same person what gives employees meaning and purpose, they will hesitate, maybe repeating one of their previous answers, or offering some esoteric response little grounded in reality.

The problem – now, and in the future – is that mission and vision statements won’t be enough to get an organization to the next level of greatness. Today’s workforce needs personal meaning and purpose to drive to goals – money will not be enough – and in the future it looks like this trend will continue.

Mission statements came to business in the 1940s, most likely due to a population coming out of wartime military service. Vision statements started to appear shortly thereafter in the 1950s. Both had a tremendous impact on business: mission statements told organizations what they did, and vision statements told them where they were going and how to get there.

However, neither of these documents addressed “who” makes up the organization, nor the discipline required of the leaders and employees. What organizations want, and need, is for people to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. They want this to be internalized so employees can act, not re-act, on the fly, in unpredictable circumstances, and come to solutions independently that meet the intent of the organization and its leaders.

A paradigm shift is needed; leaders need something that goes beyond policies, procedures and metrics. Leaders need a tool that provides principles on how to lead, and how the organization should operate and make decisions, that provides purpose for their employees. The solution is a culture statement: a reference point that tells the organization who they are and which will help them in what they do and how they do it. Why use a culture statement and not rely on company values? Values are wonderful, but they become stand alone and absolute. Unfortunately, values cannot be absolute – it is the application of values that matter. Since a culture statement addresses the application of values to behavior, it’s more than a document; it starts a process, a journey toward better outcomes.

All organizations have cultures, however, few have deliberate cultures. The goal is to develop a culture statement that is organic to your organization. Through a collaborative process, we can facilitate the development of a culture statement that provides operational principles which give an organization what it needs to progress. A culture statement provides a clear and concise roadmap of who you are as an organization – and how you should make decisions, operate and lead. This deliberate document is the foundation of your mission and vision, as well as your day to day operations. It allows you to recruit effectively and grow intentionally.

Kenning Associates specializes in helping executives and their organizations create deliberate cultures, using techniques used by military Special Operations. Creating a culture statement is the second step in our 3D Culture Process. To set cultural aspirations, we facilitate a discussion with people from all levels in your organization, in order to gather internal ideas about an “ideal culture”. After collecting the information, Kenning synthesizes the main thoughts, developing a draft for review by top tier leadership. After a round of revision, the leadership draft is socialized among the organization for employee review and input. The final draft is a collaborative work produced with input from all levels in the organization – though not all senior leadership needs to be present, they need to be invested in the process.

This deliberate culture definition approach has worked for professional football teams, universities, Fortune 100 companies and others. Kenning’s patented techniques can help get the absolute best from your people and give your organization the same focus that drives the most successful units in the military. If you are interested in learning more contact JC here.