People generally accept that business success is driven by shared values, well-defined missions, and compelling visions. And if you’ve ever participated in a planning session, chances are you’ve gone through an exercise to define these for your credit union.

It’s an important process and one that serves to clarify and focus the organization and the people who lead it. But it can also be a daunting, tedious, and frustrating task, and in the end there is always a danger that what gets created with great engagement disappears on the pages where it is written.

Few credit union leaders, volunteers, and employees can cite their values, mission, and vision without prompting or consulting a reference. Efforts to do so often result in a general delineation of things that might well fit any business. And this disconnect has little impact on decision making and behavior.

In part this is due to the inherent complexity of trying to capture the essence of an organization in a few words. But it is also due to the lack of a clear way to quickly connect the values, vision, and mission to day-to-day behaviors at all levels of the credit union.

Enter the idea of creating a “strategic mantra.”

A strategic mantra captures the essence of the values, vision, and mission in a catch phrase that everyone can remember and use to guide their actions and decisions. For example, Apple is known for Think Different, Amazon is known for One and Done, Zappos is Powered by Service, Southwest is THE Low Fare Airline, and Walmart focuses on  Always Low Prices.

These are what I call strategic mantras. They capture the essence of what the company stands for in a way that connects with every stakeholder. They provide a filter through which all decisions must pass and they reflect the end game that the business is playing.

What I am really suggesting here is to create what Jim Collins and his team (in the Built to Last and Good to Great books) called a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG), then capture it in a single catch phrase that becomes part of your credit unions vocabulary. It will drive results, it will increase engagement, and it will keep you connected to the underlying values, mission, and vision that define the organization–because it will keep them front and center in a way that impacts what people think, how they make decisions, and why they do what they do.

ACTION ADVICE:   In a 144-character world the 100 word mission statement is far less effective than a clear and focused strategic mantra.  What’s yours?  If you don’t have one, when will you start creating it?