Long have I wanted to write a multipart expose (aka rant) on the absurdities of modern American corporate culture. Thankfully my SEO consultant’s never-ending thirst for blogs has given me this chance, at last.
Like everything else I do, I’ll start at the top and get a “big picture view” of the situation before I dig into details. I’d like to begin this series with one of the silliest of all corporate crack-ups… the ubiquitous “our business can’t possibly operate and nobody will trust us without a clear and all-encompassing” Mission Statement.
I first heard about the widespread adoption of corporate Mission Statements about 10 years ago. I had heard about a few mission statements before and some of them were pretty darn good. President Kennedy made a mission statement once: “Before this decade is through, to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth.” The starship Enterprise was on a “five year mission to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
These were pretty good mission statements. They stated a specific goal to be accomplished in a specific timeframe. Unfortunately I had to pull one of my two best examples from fiction because there have been so few well-written mission statements since Kennedy’s.
But now everyone needs a mission statement. The first time I was called into a management meeting to brainstorm on our new mission statement, I was puzzled and at a loss. I brazenly asked the question to the company owner “isn’t our mission just like any other business? To earn a lot of money?” The other managers asked the same question.
My boss at the time, the company owner, nourished his small-minded petty soul by reading and religiously following the fashionable business trends and buzzwords of the month. When ROI (“Return on Investment” to those in the know) became the hot selling point, all of our marketing materials needed to be remade. When Al Gore inspired a green movement revival with “An Inconvenient Truth,” once again our strategy had to be retailored to try to talk our clients into buying brand new power-efficient computer equipment so they could reduce their carbon footprint. (Of course the boss was driving a brand new gas-guzzling Land Rover at the same time he preached about saving the environment, but that’s a rant for a later date).
Back to the topic at hand, the boss bought into the sudden rush for companies to develop mission statements. We were forced into multi-day discussions and debates about its content. We deliberated back and forth, and ultimately came up with something very long and very lame. Who knows how many corporate executive managers are mulling over their own mission statements at this very moment? Oh don’t forget you also need a Vision Statement and Values Statement when you’re done.
Executive managers aren’t cheap… these statements cost a small fortune to produce, and what is the end result? Does anyone choose, or choose not to, do business with a company based on their mission statement? What was Hershey’s mission statement when he decided to go into the chocolate business?
Here’s the point: The mission of each and every corporation is largely the same, so from this CEO to all of the others, I’ll save you the trouble by just telling you exactly what that is: “In ___ industry, earn a lot of money.”
If you’re a good-natured company, your mission statement is “In ____ industry, earn a lot of money by surpassing the expectations of our customers, improving the lives and pocketbooks of our employees, and maintaining mutually-successful relationships with our suppliers.”
If you’re an evil-natured company, your mission statement is “In ____ industry, earn a lot of money by ripping off our customers, overworking and treating our employees like robots, and squeezing any profit from our suppliers. And also to destroy our competitors.”
Pick your moral position, fill in the blank with your industry name, and run with it. Then send me a check for $50,000 to cover the typical cost of Mission Statement development.
To be continued…