When we started RJMetrics, Bob and I were able to stay on the same page without much trouble. We had similar ways of thinking, and collaboration between two people in the same room is easy.
As we have grown, it has become both impossible and undesirable for us to stay in the loop on everything the company does. We hired all of these amazing people, and we think it’s great that they conceive their own initiatives and run with them. However, it’s more important than ever to clarify what we do, why we do it, and have a guidepost for all of our actions as a company. That guidepost is our mission statement.
While our mission statement is first and foremost for our team, we’re happy to let everyone in the world know about it. We think that it will be useful for our customers, partners, vendors, and friends to have a clear sense of what drives us.
Partway through our process of formalizing the mission statement, I sent an email to our executive team that summarizes the rationale and motivation for our particular mission. A lightly edited excerpt of that email is below:
As a thought experiment, I’ve been trying write my own personal mission statement. I realize that what inspires me might not be the same for everyone else, but I thought that this would be a good first step.
Here is a brain dump of what I believe and find inspiring.
I believe that there are right and wrong ways of thinking. The right ways tend to involve making decisions and taking action based on evidence, experience, and data.
The most inspiring things that I can think of are all advances in science and skeptical thinking. Some examples are the invention of the scientific method, the Age of Enlightenment, the development of the clinical trial, and the signing of the Magna Carta.
The change that I would like to see in the world is a more pervasive use of evidence and data in decision making and action. In business, medicine, charity, fitness, conversation, relationships, and in every other aspect of life, this is how I aspire to operate. I think the world would be a better place if others tried to operate that way as well.
I think there are two elements involved in making this change happen. The first is giving people the tools to operate this way. There are lots of different potential tools including software, access to data, understanding of statistics, and creating a culture where it’s OK to question the status quo.
The other element is related to motivation. It’s usually more work to be data-driven. The default path is typically the way that it’s been done before. Most people, including myself, need a reason to put in the effort to try to find a better way. The prospect of better results is motivating on its own, but it’s also important to make the process enjoyable, interesting, beautiful, and fun.
With that roadmap and some more collaboration from the team, we defined our company mission as:
To inspire and empower data-driven people.
We chose to focus on people rather than individual decisions or the companies at which people work. While we’re definitely interested in improving decisions and building companies, human beings need to come first. When you’re working with data and numbers all day, it can be easy to lose sight of the person at the other end of your dashboard. If we can motivate people to use data to improve their lives and give them the tools to do so, we believe that good things will follow.
It’s important to note that this isn’t something that we just came up with; it’s a formalizing of what we’ve always been about. If you’re ever wondering why everyone at RJMetrics comes to work every day, this is it.