Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Relevant mission statements

While reading the "Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?" article, I could immediately relate to it to most of the mission and vision statements I've seen from companies. It is surprising to see how many executives have a hard time defining clear mission and vision statements, while keeping them separate from their strategy. Over and over again we see long mission statements that attempt to describe what a company does in a way that makes it harder to connect with customers, employees and suppliers. One very common example is in mission statements that introduce the sentence "increase shareholder value". I see a couple of reasons why a statement like that does not belong on a mission statement:

  • Most (if not all) companies attempt to generate shareholder value and increase it over time. This mission statement gives no particularly relevant information to customers or employees.
  • It fails to describe the company's higher purpose, which is necessary to generate commitment among employees and to attract customers.
In other cases, the mission statement is too vague and doesn't convey concretely why a company exists, such as:

  • "It is our goal to continue to professionally initiate emerging intellectual capital and quickly pursue seven-habit-conforming resources to solve business problems".
  • "To proactively build interdependent intellectual capital so that we may endeavor to dramatically create corporate opportunities".
  • "Our responsibility is to authoritatively integrate outcome-driven infrastructures to stay relevant in tomorrow's world".
Interestingly, though they look real, these mission statements are taken from an automatic generator [1]. Unfortunately, it is not hard to imagine such statements in a real company.

From this analysis, I've found the following points to be very important when defining mission or vision statements:
  • Keep it short and concise: It will make it easier for employees and customers to interiorize and therefore act according to it.
  • Make it concrete, without being restrictive: It should be clear for anyone who reads it to understand what it means, but it should not restrict the company's future ambitions.
  • Strike a balance between ideal and real: It is important to have a mission statement that describes a company's higher purpose and inspires people. However, it should also be aligned with the organization's context and aspirations so that it can be taken seriously.
References:
[1] Mission Statement Generator - http://cmorse.org/missiongen/

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