[VIDEO] Purpose, Mission & Strategy: Making Hard Decisions Easier - Part 1

Just came across this excellent talk from Nick Grossman of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm that have invested in companies like Twitter and Etsy.

Right off the bat, this caught my attention:

I want to talk today about something that's very important to us, which is the connection between purpose, mission, and strategy, and how by way of connecting those things well or not so well, you can help your company align its efforts, and make hard decisions easily, or not do that so much and have everything be hard.

They hold an annual summit for all the CEOs of their portfolio companies. For this year's summit, one of the work they did was to answer the question, what is your company's mission, in ten words or less.

Here are some answers:

  • Expand human ingenuity to the sky.
  • Help people be more free and safe on the internet.
  • Spark a world of community where people feel powerful & welcomed.
  • Give people insight to what is going on in their bodies.
  • Help students learn.
  • Empower lawyers to best fight for their clients and our rights.
  • Give people skills that help them increase their livelihoods.
  • Make teaching fun and effective.
  • Advocate for the value of artists and creativity to society.
  • Give people more time.

Nick continues:

And coming up with that sense of purpose and mission and connecting it with the strategy is critical to making sure things don't go way off the rails.

On why purpose is important:

When you start something new, everybody is looking for that blue ocean. I'm entering a new market. I can change the world. We can do anything. We're just using software and the Internet; everything is possible. The sky is the limit, and that is incredibly empowering, and exciting, but it's also kind of terrifying. Because all of a sudden, the clouds come in and it gets dark, and that beautiful blue ocean kind of feels scary and dark. And as you're going through the dark times, and there are lots of them, and you need the North Star to guide you, and help you make the difficult decisions that come up along the way. There's lots of really hard decisions...

He continues:

Every team in every company every day is thinking about what product are we investing in, who are we hiring, what are we emphasizing, what are we not doing. It's just really hard. It'll make your brain melt if don't have a framework to help you make those decisions and waste lots of energy.

On how purpose aligns your team:

Another failure mode is what I call the mad scientist problem. Especially with technologists who love to build things, if they don't feel connected enough with the purpose and the mission, they'll get connected to some other project, and they'll start building stuff that's cool, and that could go way off the rails, and get way expensive way fast...

And another great point on how purpose helps you make those hard decisions:

And the observation that I've made is: the companies with the strongest connection between purpose & strategy are the best at making tough calls.

I'll be back soon with more notes from the other parts. Lots of good stuff in the 20 minute video.