How often have you been in the reception area of a company and seen the Mission Statement, beautifully designed and printed and tastefully framed, on the wall for all to see?
Have you ever thought in a mischievous moment that you could take it off the wall and replace it with one from the next door company and no-one would notice the difference?
More to the point, have you looked at your Mission Statement lately? Could you recite it to anyone who asked?
Mission Statements tend to be a given, something that every company should have and a necessary message to customers and suppliers. So they should be, but generally they do seem to have been written by someone who has drawn deeply from the Goldberg Compendium of Clichés and Platitude.
In other words, they usually don’t mean a damn thing.
All the words like “honesty”, “integrity”, “commitment”, “our people” and so on, are interchangeable with the one from next door and are consequently meaningless. All those characteristics ought to be given and are only of value when they have all be demonstrated and are visible.
So what is a Mission Statement and what should it look like? It should say what the business is constantly striving to achieve for the benefit of its workforce, its customers, its suppliers and its community.
The Vistage Mission Statement says, for example, that “We are dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of Chief Executives” and that is one of the best that I have seen.
It encapsulates exactly what the purpose is and what Vistage intends to achieve for its members. It doesn’t harp on about honesty and integrity because those are demonstrated at all times by the behaviour and attitude of its people.
The point is that it needs to start with the values of the business and again, this is the province of the leader. Obviously honesty, integrity and all the other warm words can be listed but with some meaningful explanation so that they are not just warm words. Values are essentially an internal matter and are the bedrock of the Vision and Mission Statement.
To whom does all this matter? Obviously customers and suppliers who experience them on hopefully a regular basis but even more importantly they need to be embedded into the psyche of everyone in the business.
It has been said wisely that we can’t satisfy customers (and suppliers) with dissatisfied employees so that needs to be the most important factor in the culture of the business.
Just for a little enlightenment take a look at another company that had the motto:
· "Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence."
Its "Vision and Values" mission statement declared,
· "We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves....We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don't belong here."
Very impressive and inspiring, I think you would agree; that is until you discover that the words in question were the Enron Mission Statement. Remember Enron and how it behaved to its customers, suppliers and above all, its employees?
Need I say more? Just take a look at your Mission Statement, tear it up (unless it is genuinely meaningful) and start again. Don’t try to have the team do it; it must come from the heart of the leader and encapsulate the culture that the leader espouses.
Above all, it must be lived by everyone in the business, not just written down.
Then you can put it on the wall in reception with some pride, because it is unique to you and your business and it really does mean something to everyone who reads it.
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