Back when getting ISO 9000 certified was “the thing,” companies were expected to have a mission statement. I retroactively confess to not being a “true believer” in ISO certification, so the recent dimming of enthusiasm for the program does not upset me. I do not mind the lobby plaques remaining, but I wish someone would make revising those mission statements a “new thing.”
Frankly, most of them are at best a salad of out-of-date buzz words. One company I know used the first letter of each word in an overly long sentence as the code for internet access, because IT figured it — the code, not the mission statement — was an un-hackable string of nonsense. Although it was pretty much a generic “select one from column A…” construction to meet an auditor’s reading of the requirement.
My objection to these monstrosities is that they lack the easy-to-remember pithiness of great company slogans of the past. When you heard “Ask the man who owns one,” you thought “Packard; for Cadillac there was “The Standard of the World.” Notice, there is no mention of “world class” customer service, technology, or stakeholders. In our own sector, Falk’s “Good Name in Industry” was not just a “humble brag.” From day one we were reminded that everything each of us did reflected on that reputation built by our predecessors.
Good leaders have a way of making people want to achieve goals, to be a bit better each day, and along the way create something they can forever be proud of. There is nothing inspiring about a mission statement written by a committee afraid of leaving someone out. Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” is a more effective rallying cry than “We will endeavor to build class-leading widgets at competitive prices with good online reviews.”
Take a hard look at your lobby. Is that a rallying cry or a word salad on your wall?