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Vision and Mission Refresh
Interview Highlights

At the heart of every successful organization are its mission, vision, and values. These elements guide behavior, and decision-making, and help foster a cohesive culture.

In a recent episode of CPO Playbook, Felicia Shakiba sat down with Pat Walsh, the Chief People Officer of Potbelly Sandwich Works, to discuss the recent overhaul of their company's mission, vision, and values.

Stressing the Overhaul

Pat Walsh explains that the need to revamp Potbelly's mission, vision, and values stemmed from two main factors. First, the organization was entering a new chapter of growth. Having grown significantly since its inception in 1977, Potbelly aspired to reach 2000 units, a significant leap from their current 400+ units. Pat thinks that this ambitious goal requires a strong foundation of guiding principles.

Secondly, Pat points out that the company had a relatively new leadership team. With a fresh set of leaders, including Pat himself, it was crucial to establish a shared vision and focus. This alignment was necessary to drive the culture and results of the organization forward.


Engaging the Leadership Team

According to Pat, the process began with a recognition among the leadership team that there was a gap in their existing mission, vision, and values. They decided to adopt a five-step change management model to guide their efforts. This model included preparing the organization, crafting a vision, implementing the vision, and embedding the changes to ensure sustainability.


Gathering Perspectives

To ensure diverse input, Pat and his team gathered feedback from various stakeholders within the organization. This included long-term employees, newer team members, and leaders from different departments. Pat emphasizes the importance of healthy debate and open dialogue in this process. He believes that creating an environment where different perspectives can be shared without personal ego is crucial for success.


Reaching Consensus

Pat describes the process of reaching a consensus as old-fashioned but effective. The team debated word choices and refined the statements through several face-to-face and virtual sessions. Ultimately, they landed on a set of mission, vision, and values that everyone felt good about.


The New Statements

Potbelly’s new vision is to be the most loved sandwich brand in every neighborhood. According to Pat, this vision encapsulates their aspiration to inspire emotional connections with customers, grow their presence, and maintain their identity as a neighborhood shop.

Their mission is to delight customers with great food and good vibes. Pat highlights that this mission remains true to Potbelly’s core, focusing on providing delicious food and a positive atmosphere.

Potbelly’s values include principles like community, belonging, teamwork, and integrity. Pat believes these values are intuitive and essential, particularly in the service industry. Additionally, they retained the concept of “Sideway Service,” a unique customer service approach that differentiates Potbelly from competitors.

Bringing the Values to Life

Pat stresses the importance of clear and unified communication when introducing new mission, vision, and values. The leadership team at Potbelly unveiled the new statements during a company-wide town hall meeting, emphasizing their significance.

To ensure these values are lived and breathed within the organization, Pat and his team have integrated them into training materials, performance reviews, and recognition programs. They are still in the process of embedding these changes, but the initial feedback has been positive.


Feedback and Impact

Pat shares examples of feedback from employees, highlighting how the new values resonate with them. One employee expressed gratitude for the opportunities for growth and the supportive work environment. Another appreciated the inclusive and caring team culture, which made them feel valued despite personal challenges.

Customer Experience

Pat believes that a positive employee mindset directly translates into a great customer experience. When employees feel supported and aligned with the company’s values, it reflects in their interactions with customers, ultimately driving business success.


What to Learn From Potbelly Sandwich Works' Approach

Pat Walsh's approach to updating the company’s mission, vision, and values at Potbelly Sandwich Works offers valuable lessons for any organization looking to grow and align its culture.

Key takeaways include recognizing when change is needed, involving leadership and stakeholders, using a structured change management process, and gathering diverse perspectives.

Equally important is open dialogue, reaching consensus through collaboration, and clear communication are crucial. Embedding values into daily practices, monitoring feedback, and linking employee experience to customer experience ensure lasting impact.

These principles build a strong foundation for future growth and alignment.

Official Transcript

Company values are the principles and beliefs that drive the behavior and decision making within the organization. They set the standards for how employees interact with each other, customers and other stakeholders. Values are not just motivational words: they are the foundation of the company culture and play a crucial role in shaping the organizational identity.

The importance of mission, vision and values cannot be overstated. They provide a framework for decision making, guides strategic planning, help to create a cohesive and motivated workforce, and communicate what you stand for to customers and other outside stakeholders when clearly communicated and embraced. These elements foster a strong sense of purpose and direction, leading to increased employee engagement, customer loyalty, and ultimately, improved business performance.

Today, I'm joined by Pat Walsh, the Chief People Officer of the well known restaurant chain based in Chicago, Potbelly Sandwich Works.

Pat, what triggered the need to revamp Potbelly's mission, vision and values?

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