Often higher management makes a great deal about the mission statement. It often sounds good, it gives a target to shoot for and, it gives management a sense of accomplishment in creating the statement itself. However, often it is floated down as a fait accompli, an accomplished fact and a new prayer that must be sung by the common employees of the company.
The problem with the mission statement is that it can be like the story of the 'emperor’s new clothes' - a fable where the emperor has been convinced that he is wearing high style, when in fact he is totally naked and exposed. The mission statement cannot be so far off of the mark as to make it obvious that management is out of touch, and even more importantly, it must not be used to cover up major inconsistencies with what an organization actually does or produces, or it will make that company look foolish to everyone but themselves.
The mission statement heralds from the time of empire building, when management took orders and commanded colonial rule. Unfortunately, the command structure and layered hierchy that resulted is part of what holds companies back from resonding to a dramatically changing global environment.
The word company came from the words 'cum panis', which translates from Latin to 'with bread', meaning with a meal. It is also the root of companion. Having a meal together meant a certain bonding and opennes to trust, as a 'company' of people discussed mutal investimets and potential profits. That 'company' formed the core of the management, and hired the neccessary workers. We still refer to management as those that sit at the table.
The mission statement must not be a product. It must not be something to hang the company's laurels on. And it must not be a lie.
The mission statement is in fact an expression of the company's integrity, an expression of its own vision of itself and its relationship with its community from its heart; and this is how that statement will be judged. If it comes across as the truth, then it will be a trumpet and flag to waive to customers and the world.
But if it comes across as a lie, a deception or as inconsistent with what is delivered, then it will hurt the company, because it will carry that message, and as everyone knows, bad news travels farther and faster than good news.
So a word to the wise: Do not use a mission statement to hide something that needs to be addressed or fixed.
Do not use it as a fanciful and hopeful outcome which is not based on reality or realizable practical efforts. The mission statement is not the product of your organization. It is simply a statement of what you do at a core level and of where you trust the future of the company to be. That statement is in fact a vehicle of trust between you and your potential customer. Do not begin by loosing that trust with a deception.
The mission statement, when done with honoring of the efforts of the employees and with integrity helps to refine where the heart and enthusiasm lies in the company. When it is allowed to do this, the mission statement becomes a 'vision' statement. It holds the enthusiasm for the future.
If you have a shoe making company, specializing in boots, then the mission statement may express the determination to make the best boots with the highest quality, craftsmanship and care in the industry. And, if that is true, then it expresses that determination and enthusiasm to deliver a great product. It becomes a uniting principle, one that moves the brand forward and is something that expresses the honest intentions of the company to a new employee.
On the other hand, if the same company's mission statement is something like 'We are the greatest shoe company in world providing customers with unmatched quality shoes produced with the greatest love and care in the world", and it turned out that the shoes were produced in a third world sweat shop, then the mission statement is surely a time bomb.
The mission statement, or the new ‘vision’ statement, is not an advertising gimmick, but a means to understand where the core of the company is in terms of enthusiasm, energy and willingness to produce the better product. And for that reason, by its very nature, this statement must come from the ground up, from the grass roots. It must not be espoused. It must be discovered. It must come from the shared enthusiasm of everyone in the company, and when that does happen, it then becomes a vehicle to express that enthusiasm and direction to customers and the world.
Originally Published in CompaniesAlive Copyright © 2011, 2021 by Roman Oleh Yaworsky. All rights reserved.
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