Not much would be most peoples’ immediate response.
In the old days, small businesses didn’t need such a thing as a mission statement. Because you worked alongside your boss, his or her commands were plain to see. And if you were the boss, well, you just got on and did it. The customer was right in front of you too, or just on the other side of town, so the distance between you and them was easy.
But with bigger organisations came a greater need to control. More people in your factory means a diluted relationship with each one. What’s more, modern transportation and communication meant that customers could be many miles - and many links in the chain -away. Easy to have a breakdown in communication. Easy to have people working at odds with each other.
Despite their prevalence, mission statements weren’t much chop. Good for making the eyes glaze over, they were synonymous with flannel and PR grease. The oft quoted “you should be able to say it in a sentence” meant that they were often unwieldy amalgams of very long words, containing little in the way of inspiration or challenge.
With today’s new social and economic landscape, an empty, vapid mission statement can be downright harmful. Google search “bad mission statements” and shake your head at the weight of numbers. Read the comments and see how dispirited and angry people are about them. And if they’re not angry, they’re laughing. If organisations wanted to come across as inauthentic, then on the whole, mission statements have helped them to achieve it.
It’s time for organisations to say what they mean, and mean what they say
Plenty of successful organisations have decided that mission statements aren’t for them – Valve, for example. Read just a page or two of their extraordinary Employee Handbook and you know exactly the scope and nature of the mission they are on.
Organisations at the cutting edge of cultural change have realised that creativity is much more valuable than mindless obedience - that saying what everyone else is saying is old-school stuff. And that thinking very carefully about what you do – and why you do it – is vital to dealing with change and uncertainty.
But if your organisation still wants or needs a mission statement, as a quality professional you need to get involved.
Few positions in the workplace enjoy the breadth and depth of relationship with external and internal customers that you do. The marketing team often gets lumbered with The Mission Statement Creation Seminar/Torture Session (RSVP by Friday, drinks and nibbles provided), but they can’t – and shouldn’t – do it alone. They simply don’t have the scope.
But you as a quality professional – you take a holistic approach to problem solving. You try to build bridges between departments and functions; your core role is to listen, investigate and act - you are deep in the mix, so use your knowledge to help create a mission statement that is honest and meaningful.
Getting involved also allows internal doubters to see how in-touch and valuable you are.
Grab the opportunity.