Corporate executives on a mission of foolishness

Have you ever noticed how some “high-tech” companies get caught up in the hoopla of Harvard-style business practices? It may be that the high-tech nature of these businesses creates a desire to search for business practices that are also high-tech. (Does the word “leverage” ring a bell?)

The North American attitude is that bigger is better, growth is success and measurement is by cents, not by sense. But one beautiful example of the depths of crass stupidity that the “high-tech” executive can fall into is the “Mission Statement.” I have no idea where this gem of fatuity was created but it must have been in some highly-touted establishment.

The theory is simple – each company should have a short (no more than a few sentences) statement that exactly and completely expresses the organization’s purpose in commercial life. It must declare what the company makes, how it treats its customers, how it regards ethics, what after service it will provide, to what standards its products will be made, how it will treat its employees, its record, its size, its intended size…and so on.

Jewels of wisdom?

By now even the most lucifugous reader will begin to have doubts about the ability to compress all this information into a simple Mission Statement. But try they do.

Companies spend thousands on “crafting” (shudder) a cute paragraph, which they emblazon on their reception walls. It is honoured by the attachment of the president’s signature and given special space in annual reports. The executives proudly mumble it to their spouses at home (they never can really remember it) and strut into the car park at night confident that the building is secure under the guard of the Mission Statement. Have you ever read any of these perfect little jewels?

Am I missing something or do they all seem the same? I imagine one from a car thief would be, “We provide the highest quality automobile product at the lowest possible price. We guarantee our customers and suppliers complete and rapid attention based on experience and continual involvement. By using the latest technological techniques we provide a product of high quality.”

Would it not be nice to get an honest one for a change? Perhaps something like this: “We will sell the lowest possible quality that we can get away with and provide after sales service if you can reach us through our maze of auto-answer service numbers. We promise to our employees a work-safe environment to standards set by us and minimum wages to match.”

Money well wasted

The biggest puzzle is why any company would spend money on getting one of these stupidities composed. They could just use someone else’s – there are dozens available and with a few re-arranged words no one would know the difference.

But just what are Mission Statements used for? Is it that the employees are incapable of determining what their company does? Has any salesman been approached by a customer demanding to see the company’s mission statement?

Just imagine a high-level meeting where a potential buyer stands up and says, “I regret to announce that we have decided to go to your competition because they have a better mission statement”. So if you are in the market for one please let me write one for you and I will charge you just a few dollars. Or I have a real beauty that you can have free – I got it from the Internet. Here it is:

“XXXX is a market leader in providing scaleable solutions for businesses of any size. Our commitment, support, and reputation for providing comprehensive, state-of-the-art solutions have made us a trusted business partner in the industry. From small businesses to large corporations, XXXX products are providing answers to the key questions facing businesses every day.”

Can someone please tell me who uses these things?

Robinson has been involved with high-tech Canadian start-up companies