We can probably all agree that these are pretty chaotic times for all of your senior leaders. Technology is providing unbelievable opportunities, unprecedented challenges, and plenty of embarrassing moments when you have to quietly ask, “What the heck is TikTok?” You also have political instability, trade wars, a massive generational divide, endlessly bifurcated marketing budgets, a pressure to take a stand on social issues, and an absolute army of savvy start-ups who are trying to eat your lunch without ever having to show a profit while they do it.
Also, uhh.. something-something block chain.
Clearly, you have a lot on your plate. The C-Suite may not be so C-Sweet after all.
And what do many of you do to fight this war on 12 fronts?
What’s your go-to strategy to inform and inspire your people into focused action so you can thrive in the changing economy? You say,
“Before we start, let’s take a look at our Mission Statement…”
Nooooooooo. If you weren’t the CEO, your people would storm the stage, rip the clicker from your hand, and replace the buzzword-bingo paragraph you’re about to read out loud with, well, anything. Trust me, your teams would rather you read Q4 cost projections, your collective bargaining agreement, or actual lines of code from your new CRM tool than have to sit through one more performance of your corporate Mission Statement. If you really were the CEO you claim you want to be, you wouldn’t just remove the mission statement from your deck. You’d kill it altogether.
It’s time to face it, Mission Statements need to go away on the Blackberry they rode in on.
- Is the Vision the Mission or the Mission the Vision?
Like any responsible leader, when the time comes to re-calibrate your organization, you revisit the MBA textbooks you first read when Alf was on the air. You carefully craft your Vision and Mission so you can check those boxes before moving on to articulate your SWOT analysis. You understand it. Your senior leadership gets it. But your front line employees – the very people who are expected to deliver on the mission and vision – don’t.Oh, they know what each says. They can recite them from memory thanks to the water-torture like onboarding program that forced them to repeatedly recite t]hem just to gain access to the cafeteria. And yes, they all know that’s painted on the wall in behind reception. They know the words by heart. But here’s the problem: Most of your people lack the business school credentials to know the difference between Mission and Vision, let alone how each impacts their personal responsibilities. Is the mission a goal? Is it a purpose? Is Vision an aspiration? Is it imperative? And whatever they mean, aren’t Mission and Vision just terms for senior leadership to discuss? Just because the mission and vision inspire you, don’t assume it inspires them.
- How many points does one get for including the phrase “Solution Provider”?
Even if people understood the concept of Mission, the one you crafted doesn’t mean anything to anyone. Great works of prose may come from the mind of an uncompromising literary artist but adequate works of Mission have been written by a committee of department heads each looking out for their constituents. “We can’t forget culture,” says the head of HR. “Well, it’s also critical that we mention profitability,” chimes in the head of finance. By the time custodial services chimes in, the organization doesn’t need a mission statement. It needs a mission book.Besides, the group-think flip chart exercise known as “strategic collaboration” loses all sense of personality, credibility, and clarity the second your self appointed note-taker asks whether the group would prefer to use “Synergy” or “Symbiosis”. By the time they’re done, your Mission Statement strings together empty expressions and business jargon like, “Best in Class”, “Solution Provider”, “Core Competency”, “Experience”, and “People” and says absolutely nothing in the process. It’s language written by people who want to sound smart only to be ridiculed by those who actually are.
- Put Purpose Before Profit.
With a landscape that changes by the second, most organizations need to be built for ultimate flexibility and need to explore a diversified portfolio of product services. And I don’t mean cranking out additional SKUs like gluten-free, less salt and even lesser salt options. For an organization to be nimble, flexible, and diversified, it needs people who are nimble, flexible, and diversified. And that doesn’t come from a Mission. It comes from a Belief.Lately, the corporate purpose has been confused with a social cause, social movements, and public policy. That’s not the corporate purpose, that’s philanthropy or cause marketing. Corporate purpose is a higher-order belief that inspires and informs what you sell. It indicates which people you should hire. It aligns your people, drives your thinking, provides a roadmap for innovation, and acts as a thread through all of your content and marketing.
Mission and vision are both thoughts of in future tense but only prepare you for today.
A belief is grounded in the present but also prepares for tomorrow.
Your Mission – should you choose to accept it – is to engage, inform, and inspire your people. And the last thing you need to do its is a Mission.
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