The Perfect and the Poor of Mission and Vision Statements of Corporate Culture
Having established last time the benefits that both mission and vision statements give to an organisation and how they can shape corporate culture to facilitate organisational change, before we discuss creating and how best to use these statements, I think we should focus minds by looking at some great and not-so-great mission and vision statements.
Mission statements can be head-scratchingly awful when an organisation gets it wrong.
I hope that by the end of this article you’ll appreciate more fully just how powerful these statements can be. They are tough to structure for maximum impact personable to your company’, and even the biggest organisations in the world have trouble doing so.
Five miserable mission statement mistakes
1. A mission statement needs to say something about your business
Many companies forget that a mission statement needs to be precise. It needs to tell what, when, where, and how. For example, look at this flaky effort from Albertsons:
“To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.”
Okay, I’m going to assume you know nothing about Albertsons. Please tell me: what does the company sell? Where does it sell it? And how does it sell it?
Employees who have worked at Albertsons for years might kind of get what management are trying to say, but customers and potential suppliers have been forgotten.
2. A mission statement needs to stick to reality
While a vision statement might get away with being overly ambitious, a mission statement needs to keep its feet on the ground. How about this from Avery Dennison:
“To help make every brand more inspiring, and the world more intelligent.”
Oh, didn’t the company tell you? It makes sticky labels.
3. A mission statement needs to be clear
There is little more confusing than contradiction. It amazes me how many organisations say one thing and then immediately negate by saying something completely opposite. Barnes & Noble’s mission is:
“…To operate the best specialty retail business in America, regardless of the product we sell… To say that our mission exists independent of the product we sell is to demean the importance and the distinction of being booksellers.”
Perhaps Barnes & Noble was trying to outdo Amazon’s rather better attempt (Barnes & Noble has long been overtaken in the world of bookselling by Amazon):
“To be the Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
4. A mission statement needs to be a mission statement
Some companies appear to get confused about the purpose of a mission statement. It is to tell the world what it is, what is does and where, and what its aims are. Unfortunately, MGM got the wrong end of the stick:
“MGM Resorts International is the leader in entertainment & hospitality − a diverse collection of extraordinary people, distinctive brands and best-in-class destinations.”
Okay, so this is simply a description of what the company believes it is. That isn’t inspirational at all.
5. A mission statement needs to be seen
Please don’t tell me that your organisation doesn’t have a mission; a basis on which to plan and implement business strategy; a documented value and belief that will pull all your people together through times of organisational change and define your corporate culture. You don’t? Well you’re not alone. Neither does Dell, nor thousands of other companies.
Five magnificent mission statements
There are organisations that get the mission statement spot on. Here are five of them:
“Our mission is to provide a global online marketplace where practically anyone can trade practically anything, enabling economic opportunity around the world.”
“Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
The Motor Neurone Disease Association
“Our mission is to fund and promote research to bring about an end to MND. Until then we will do all that we can to enable everyone with MND to receive the best care, achieve the highest quality of life possible, and die with dignity. We will also do all that we can to support the families and carers of people with MND.”
“Make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old.”
“JetBlue exists to provide superior service in every aspect of our customer’s air travel experience.”
Five fantastic vision statements
Now you have an idea of what is good and bad, here are five fantastic vision statements. All are clean, concise, and clear about setting future goals:
“A computer on every desk and in every home.”
The Motor Neurone Disease Association
“The Motor Neurone Disease Association has a vision of a World free of MND.”
“A world without poverty.”
“To make people happy.”
“To be the number one athletic company in the world.”
And just to show that vision statements do change over time:
Nike (in 1960)
“To destroy Adidas.”
Five tips when creating your mission statement
In my next article, we’ll look more closely at how to create your mission and vision statements; but I’d like to leave you now with five tips that should start you thinking about your mission statement:
- Make your mission statement sell to all stakeholders and potential stakeholders.
- Ensure your mission statement is grounded in the realms of reality.
- Don’t do good work with one part of your mission statement only to destroy it with a contradiction later on.
- Make the mission statement inspirational, too.
- Read the next article in this series, “How to write killer mission and vision statements”.
Part Two: The Perfect and the Poor of Mission and Vision Statements