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Where Is Your True North?

by Linda Kleineberg | Oct 24, 2014

Does your organization have a True North?

Probably not… at least not one that is a living, breathing, guiding force for focused and strategic decision-making.  You may be thinking, "I don't know what a True North is, but we sure do have a terrific Mission Statement." 

Do you really? Does it drive your organization toward its goals? 

Your True North answers two key questions for every member of your team…

  • What do I work on first? Second? Never?
  • Will this work add value to our customers?

What is a True North?Decision-Making Cartoon

True North is a decision making tool. It is a clear statement that helps the people in your organization  emotionally connect with how you add value to your customers and build prosperity. It must be clear, simple, directly related to your core brand promise, and absolutely free of jargon and "business-ese".

Here are some TERRIBLE examples from our friends at Inc. - "The 9 Worst Mission Statements of All Time" or better yet… have a little fun and make up a terrible one yourself with this "Mission Statement Generator"

Why you REALLY need a True North… Right Now.

The people inside your organization are making decisions all day every day. Many decisions are made without any real consideration at all. Think about how many activities you and your colleagues do because "that's the way it's always been done" or because someone doesn't see the downstream or upstream impact. Even worse - they just guess and move on.

A solid True North cuts through these routines, patterns, and narrow fields of view to provide your team members with a persistent question - is this work going to help us get closer to our True North?   If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, then move on to something else.

But they're just WORDS, right?Sir Winston Churchill

"We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”  - Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons (4 June 1940)

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable Rights; that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” - Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence 1776

"…And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." - John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address 1961

Did those leaders just speak words? Or did something about those words resonate so deeply with their audience that entire nations were moved to action? 

The power of words to unite is the stuff of legends. Great leaders find WORDS to inspire emotional connections that guide, motivate and sustain the march toward a goal - no matter how difficult. A True North does the same for your organization.  

Our True North Guides Us Every Day 

VIBCO's True North is SAME DAY, NEXT DAY for our customers. It's everywhere. It pervades everything we do. It guides our improvement activities. It shows us where we excel, and frankly… where we still have a long way to go. In recent months, we've discovered that as we grow, Same Day Next Day for our customers means we need to strive for Same Minute, Next Minute within our four walls.

You can learn more about VIBCO's True North at

The Bottom Line on True North

If your organization makes decisions, then you need a True North.

A clear and connected True North drives the thinking, innovation, values and beliefs of your organization - it becomes your DNA. Lean and Operational Excellence are not sustainable without a shared set of core beliefs that guide, drive and motivate. Your True North is the "burning platform", it's the reason why your team shows up to work each day energized to pursue excellence.

Developing your True North is an exercise in deep thinking. The task of finding words that capture your strategic vision is no small task - AND those words need to inspire your team to have an emotional connection to how THEY add value to your customers . It's not something you can read in a book or learn in business school. It comes through intimacy, authenticity and understanding who your business actually is today, what your customers need it to be tomorrow, and how you're going to get there.

The most important thing is to get started... Here is a collection of articles to help:


1 Comment

  1. 1 Scott Grace 25 Oct

    Linda- Great piece .., thanks for sharing!