Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mission Statements Can Make The Difference. The Question Is WHAT?

I was thinking about mission statements and how many companies I've worked with in the last 30 years that have made them and how it made a difference or not. I have to say that the operative word is NOT.

I was also thinking about the history of that phrase, mission statement. I don't know what the real history is and it is obscure in researching online; however, in my own experience, the phrase mission statement became very popular and all the rage so to speak in the early 1990's after the publication of Stephen Covey's book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Of course, he was referring to a personal mission statement, which is even worse in my mind, but corporate America took it and went goofy with it.

One problem I have with mission statements is not that they are altruistic, which they generally are, or that they are dripping with slippery, obsequious platitudes, which seems to be a requirement. No, my problem is that all that I have seen are BS--plain and simple--BS.

Another problem I have with them is that once the company goes down the path of doing this, they lose the loyalty and belief of the people who work there because now there is this dreamy, wonderful-sounding objective and they will keep the company accountable. The first failure to achieve the stated mindset, begins the slow and sure cracking of the company employees trust and belief.

Another problem is that these companies publish this dribble for customers to see. Customers are far smarter than companies give them credit, and they will pay close attention to how a company measures up to its "promises."

All of this together is tantamount to the beginning of the end for these companies. Believe me, I have watched it happen and I can trace it all back to the first mission statement meeting and the months long drafting and redrafting of the magical elixir called the company mission statement.

So, what do I mean when I say it "can make the difference?" Certainly, it can be the negative side as I've presented here, and it can also be the thing that takes the company from zero to hero. So, what's the difference? It's very, very simple: walk your talk.

For the mission statement to be a positive springboard to greater success, a company must live their mission statement each and every day. They must measure themselves against it and every decision they make must be measured against it. They must treat their employees as if they are measuring the company against it, because they will be and are. They must treat their customers as if they are measuring the company against it, because they will be and are. They must become the mission statement before they get there. They must own it and live it and breathe it. That, my friends, will make all the difference. Not one of the companies that I was involved with who created mission statements did this. Most of them are out of business today.

Better to not have a mission statement than to have one that is obviously BS.

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