Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Vision, Mission and all that claptrap

Every organisation worth its salt has a vision and mission statement. Often crafted by expensive consultants. Those that can't differentiate between the two, have a single statement that's both a vision and a mission. Those who profess to know the difference, have two statements. They are often held in reverential awe. I suggest they must be binned as unadulterated claptrap.

Firstly these motherhood statements have virtually no meaning. Take these examples

"To experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public" - Sony

"To help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential"- Microsoft

"Ford Motor Company is focused on creating a strong business that builds great products that contribute to a better world "- Ford

Can anybody decipher what they mean other than Mom and Apple Pie ?

Some are laughable . Take these for example

"To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women – globally." - Avon. Really ?? The self fulfillment need of many women is to watch Saas Bahu serials. By that standard Avon must be in the business of making TV soaps.

"Saving people money so they can live better" - Walmart. Oh Yeah ? The best way to save people money is to tell them not to buy the stuff they don't need.

"Be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders" - American Standard. Ha Ha. Fat chance.

I am not at all sure who these Mission Statements are written for. It certainly can't be for employees. 99.99% of employees work only to earn a salary. Their daily job is  a mind numbing grind - answering emails, yelling at people, doing phone calls, looking busy and doing some boring piddly stuff. Not achieving some lofty mission. For more than two decades I was supposed to "meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life". I did nothing of that sort. I wrote ledgers, closed books of accounts, borrowed money and helped put people in other countries out of a job. I certainly did not, and do not,  look good (aaaahhhh, if only ) and as for feeling good, we shall let it pass without an unparliamentary comment !

I hereby suggest a common mission statement for all businesses - " To make money in whatever way possible". If some would like to add the words legally and ethically at the end, that's optional.

PS - With all due apologies to Stephen Covey who wishes to make people like you and me write a mission statement for life !


Shachi said...

This post is a beauty!!!!

I always say this to my friends who are very business minded - bottom line, you want to make money. And most of the times, legally/ethically is just a feeling, never materializes.

Intel's vision and mission statement I think makes sense (atleast to me)....and our objectives clearly state that we want to grow profitability worldwide :).

Prats said...

I have a mixed sense for this post. I agree that a lot of vision and mission statements are a lot of noise and very little content.

But I am not opposed to the idea of having a vision/mission. I think it is really important to have a well thought out, practical and honest vision/mission statement.

Vision and Mission do provide a generic direction or guidance to people running corporations while deciding between alternatives. When you have a complex system like the organizations today running you need a sense of direction and way forward.

So where I agree to the fact that a lot of vision & mission statements are rhetorics and full of gas; I also believe that the concept of having a vision and mission is a novel and relevant one. The current state of affairs is more to do with great ideas and poor execution.

TMM said...

The cynic that I am, really tempted to side with you but alas, I did find an organization that had a vision/mission statement which made sense, had kpis that actually measured commitment to that mission/vision. Not necessarily all commercial/profit oriented organizations are the ones with m/v/claptrap. One example of a public service which did a 'major organization transformation' (mgmt consulting jargon!), which involved building a shared services (not for the usual my mess for less reasons) and delivered on the meaning and purpose of what that organization stood for is a case study in this whole shared services movement. I'm referring to the Alberta Health Services transformation and shared services/oracle implementation journey where the vision was improved patient outcomes. And by god! they did deliver to it. (PS: the visionary that made it happen is a gentleman by the name JP - Jitendra Prasad)

Ramesh said...

@Shachi - Oh; some mission statements do make sense, but would it affect your daily work if Intel didn't tell you that you are supposed to " Delight our customers, employees, and shareholders by relentlessly delivering the platform and technology advancements that become essential to the way we work and live". Actually I am not sure what that means :)

Btw you delight people more by your blog than producing an i7 or whatever :)

@Prats - You are right. There is some usefulness maybe, but then it takes writers like you to come up with a sensible statement - not the consulting types ......

@TMM - By jove - Now I have to come to Alberta and shake the hand of JP !!

Asha said...

My feelings are also mixed, I so agree that 99.99% work for money, but sometimes these mission,vision statements motivates people to reach their goal or to keep their integrity in check(one of the vision statement of an mnc)
or Am i wrong?

Personally I love reading these vision, mission statements of companies and mottos of schools like "strive to surpass", "aim higher soar higher" etc.,

Appu said...

Did some one hack your account ;)
So surprised to see such a post from you. I always thought you are pro company and never ever cynical :))
I completely agree what you say is true for most of the times still finding it difficult it is you telling it :P

rads said...

The lengthier the mission statement the more confusing it gets. Avon's statement is really lol and Sony's, I didn't even understand it. Reminds me of the 'Objective' statement on my CV/resume, it was three lines long to begin with coz my resume writer (yes I actually took someone's help) thought a one line sentence doesn't cover everything.. but after reading it several times, I thought, what the heck? my objective is to get the job so I just changed it to a one line "seeking this position" kind of statement. Simple, and easy and understood by everyone and most importantly honest. But alas!! no calls :D nobody seemed to think I cared for the job I guess...

Now I understand why all these mission statements are written that way. The world expects complexity and a complex sentence means the company's putting some real effort into whatever they do and when I read the Microsoft statement, I feel 'Oh wow I should get that' and that's the main goal I guess.

Ramesh said...

@Asha - You love to read mission statements ??? Wow :) The problem is that these are grandiose statements having little connection with reality

@Zeno - Me certainly pro business and hopefully not too cynical. Have to refurbish my brand image :):)

@Rads - Ha Ha - The objective/mission/whatever in the CV is another classic example of nonsensical verbiage. As you sa, the only true objective is "I want this job" !!

J said...

Like Zeno I was surprised to see such a cynical post from you. Some of the mission statements are bordering on absurd but it made me curious about the mission statement of some of the b-schools I have been at. My own guess would have been "do whatever it takes to be improve the Businessweek ranking of the school" but of course they had loftier goals of educating and inspiring leaders ;)

Ramesh said...

@J - Oh No - Me needs major refurbishment :)

Ah - don't even start about academic missions.

Sandhya Sriram said...

I feel business is not just about business. echoing some of the views, i think, the vision of the company subtly drives the underlying value of the organisation. the next door kirana also runs a business. but if you ask him to make a mission statement, he would of course want to maximise money, but possibly be the closest and most flexible to his customers needs and isnt that true as well. as long as the company gets the bang for the buck by using the mission/vision statement to create the underlying sentiments for the organisation, i feel it is worth it.

Ramesh said...

@Sandhya - Oh of course business is not about money only, but its also not about the bombast that there is mission statements as well. Really ; are your sentiments affected by "meeting everyday needs of consumers, blah blah blah " ??

Hema said...

Oh..oh..oh...I totally disagree here sire!
The purpose of a mission statement is not to put up a jumble of complicated words which the whole world does not understand.
It represents the business goals and the underlying philosopies of an organisaiton.
In such a complex world where there are thousands of avenues of making money, each company has to atleast draw its border lines within which they will work and make money.
This will act as a guideline in drawing out their product or sales strategies. The Promoter would have given a thought to it and would have had a core group to come out with this statement.
Making money, is the bottom line for any business. Agree we dont need a mission statement to state that. But how, where, what etc should be guided by the mission statement I think.
Just as an example, I dont see anything wrong with Sony's mission statement. It just means to say that the leadership in Sony want to be applying technology to benefit the public. Hence they would have a great R&D to focus and innovate technology which will bring joy to the public. LCD to LED to whatever. The public will know that they are striving for it atleast and their products will prove that. Every employee in Sony need not worry if his work is bringing joy to the public.
Ofocurse, there could be many irrelevant and funny mission statements that we could come across. That is more becasue of the lack of understanding on how to make a mission statement rather than lack of purpose of the mission statement I guess.
Phew...sorry for the long comment. No hard feelings of course!

Ramesh said...

@Hema - Of course, respect your views and there is much merit in what you say. You must obviously be a fan of Stephen Covery !!

But, really, are you guided by "bringing IT to the heart of India " - Really ?? :)

Hema said...

Hmm...tough question...I would say 'yes, wherever possible'!
Taking IT to the heart of india with the EBITDA negative may not make sense. So, in those times, common sense shall prevail rather than that statement...:)
Again that statement reflects the intent and passion of the promoter I guess.

Ramesh said...

@Hema - Tough no. The %^&*%$! called EBITDA tends to rule over everything :)

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