Tell you what, if you’ve got the time and the temperament, reading a stack of corporate mission and vision statements can really help you.
Like Rip Van Winkle on warm milk and Ambien.
Aye carumba, some of them are just brutal. Not only are they an assault on the eyes and the ears, with prose that’s strictly amateur and painfully purple, but also with excessive, unbridled and unnecessary, uh, wordiness. Take the mission statement of a prominent supermarket chain that shall be nameless until you look it up.
Yes, take it. Please.
Take it and stick it in the same bin they throw baloney in after it passes the expiration date:
“To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.”
Uh, can you say that again?
Wait. On second thought, don’t.
Then there’s the mission statement of McDonald’s, which more or less proves that more is less:
“McDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience—People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion.”
Yeah, Ronald McDonald should have taken one of those oversized shoes and slammed on the brakes after the first sentence. That would have accomplished that mission’s mission.
But no, he had to hit the gas, only to swerve out of control with first a grammatical blunder—“centers,” not “center”—and then flip over and end up in a ditch with gratuitous alliteration that, when spoken aloud in close proximity, will get you spat on.
Of course, it’s not all a semantic cesspool out there. Some mission and vision statements are quite lovely, as a matter of fact. Pithy. Punchy. Poignant. Passably poetic.
See? You’re getting spat on again.
TED, of the eponymous and ubiquitous talks, says a lot in saying very little, just like the talks themselves.
Whoa, dude, that’s awesome stuff.
TED’s vision: “Spread ideas.”
Bam. Perfect. Not even a grain of grandiloquence. You can have that sewn onto a throw pillow… or tattooed onto your forearm.
Caterpillar, the Fortune 100 behemoth famous for manufacturing ginormous earth-moving equipment, is also capable of moving people’s hearts with this surprisingly emotive vision statement:
“Our vision is a world in which all people’s basic needs—such as shelter, clean water, sanitation, food and reliable power—are fulfilled in an environmentally sustainable way and a company that improves the quality of the environment and the communities where we live and work.”
Aww, that’s so sweet, you could have knocked us over with a 10-ton bulldozer.
And the winner is…
“To provide access to the world’s information in one click.” —Google
Hard to beat that, in terms of brevity… as well as bravado. If you google “greatest vision statement” and that doesn’t pop up, switch to Bing.
And Now for Something Completely Different
Whether well-written or clunky, laconic or loquacious, these statements all follow the same pattern. The mission is what you currently do, and the vision is where you aspire to go. In other words, missions are a mirror, and visions are a telescope.
But you can scour the S&P 500, from Abbott Laboratories (health care for humans) to Zoetis (health care for non-humans) and there’s something you won’t see from any of them.
One. Word. About. Employees.
Think about that for a second.
And then for a minute.
These companies are run by the best, the brightest, the most empathetic minds in the business universe, yet not one of them weaved their own people into their foundational documents. Hmm. Can’t be on purpose. Must be that no one considered it.
So let’s consider it.
If you were to conjure up one of these statements but eschewed a mirror or a telescope for something that looked into your company’s insides, an X-ray machine or an MRI or a microscope, you may come up with something like this:
“Our vision is to hire doers, dreamers, and disruptors nimble enough to change with the times and innovative enough so the times must change with them.”
But hey, don’t take my word—or my words—for it.
Look inside your own company and dream the dream of introspection, not of what your company should do or be, but instead what you want your company’s people to do or to be.
Or not to be.
That is the question… as well as the answer.