The worthless Mission Statement

I’m a little late commenting on this one, but here goes…

Over at Worthwhile, David Weinberger did a bit on mission statements. I’m going to set aside what he suggests should be in a mission statement for my own contribution…

Mission Statements SUCK.

Two reasons why:

  1. As an internal document designed to guide the troops, they can be OK when they describe and package what is happening… not used as a band-aid to cover up what is really going on. A mission statement alone is not going to right a ship, and, in fact, will cause deep cynicism if it is not accompanied and dominated by congruent behaviors and beliefs exhibited by company leaders. The foo-foo language in mission statements is usually designed to do rally the troops around a central message or set of principles. But the so-called gurus who advocate them miss out (probably intentionally) on the secret behind the secret: In places where mission statements are “successful” it is because they are merely describing how the culture already works and then taking credit for the change that never was!
  2. As an external document, anyone who displays a mission statement to a customer should be tortured by having to listen to that annoying colleague who can’t stop talking about how great he or she is. Your customers care far less about you and what you value than what you can do for them. Not the whole world, but them. People are selfish, and businesses need to take that fact into account and leverage it for marketing effectiveness.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous December 23, 2005 at 1:12 am

Mission statements can be meaningless. What’s needed are the alignment mechanisms which persuade behaviors. Mission statement examples are worthless without the methodologies which diagnose when you are off-mission and get you back on track.

Unfortunately the web site parrallel is the meaningless About Us page, which can benefit from these same mechanisms. If you can do what 99.9% of the competition can’t (create a meaningful mission) isn’t that a competitive advantage?

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2 Anonymous December 23, 2005 at 6:12 am

Mission statements can be meaningless. What’s needed are the alignment mechanisms which persuade behaviors. Mission statement examples are worthless without the methodologies which diagnose when you are off-mission and get you back on track.
Unfortunately the web site parrallel is the meaningless About Us page, which can benefit from these same mechanisms. If you can do what 99.9% of the competition can’t (create a meaningful mission) isn’t that a competitive advantage?

Reply

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