Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

Mission Statements vs. Priorities

It has not been too long ago when the fad of Mission Statements appeared on the corporate scene.  Not only were corporations writing their Mission Statements but the trend was carrying over into all kinds of organizations.  Without a Mission Statement, you were considered to be rudderless in the sea of activity.  It was considered a good business practice to have a Mission Statement.  But what are Mission Statements?  To me they appear to be a lot of puffery.  Dr. Eric Schulz in his book, The Marketing Game, refers to Mission Statements as "feel-good mottos developed for public consumption."  They describe how we want the general public to picture us.  But, what do Mission statements have to do with reality?  Not much from my point of view.

Most mission statements deal with the quality of their company's products or service and their dedication to their employees.  Now turn the corner and see what happens when times get a little tough.  The first thing you see is cost cutting.  The quality of the service or products is reduced.  So much for that part of the Mission Statement.  The next thing to go are the employees.  All of a sudden we have staff reductions and budget cuts.  All of this leads me to believe that when things are not going well we interject our real priorities.  We start immediately to look at the bottom line, that is, profits.  Have you ever seen a Mission statement that says, "Our goal is to reward our investors?"  Or one that says "To maintain corporate profits?"  Or how about "To maintain my Bonus?"  Actually from my perspective these statements appear closer to the truth than what I read on the walls of the corporations.  I can easily accept the first two as being valid and good Mission Statements.  It is only the third one where I have a concern, and where I have experienced the results of such a goal.

For example, recently when giving a talk on concepts which I consider to be analogous to Mission Statements, I cited an example of a large, well known company.  This company has a Mission Statement that covers their Values and Vision.  In the Values area they covered respect, integrity, communication and excellence.  While in the Vision area they covered their markets, creativity, diversity, customers, environment and change.  I read key parts of the Mission Statement to my audience, but not the whole thing.  Everyone said that it sounded like it would be a great company to work for until I told them the name of the Company, Enron.

From the corporate board room to the consumers' homes, there is the ideal and the practical.    We know what we would like to be -- but we also know what we must be.  Why don't we just say it?

There are exceptions but they are few and far between.  I have found one company that I am happy to be a part of even in a small way.  Over a period of seven years, I found that there were many times when ethics took a front seat to profits.  I can't say that about too many companies.  Yes, I said ethics took the front seat, rather than say profits took a back seat because they look to the positive rather than stating it in the negative form.  It is a simple differentiation but an important one.

The Mission Statement is how companies want to be seen --
 but TRUTH is seen in their PRIORITIES and ACTIONS.

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