Is your mission statement ‘strange’?

Discussion
Jul 07, 2015

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has been reinventing the company. Now he’s announced a new mission statement that’s being called "strange."

Most mission statements are superficial mush. They’re an obligation, like having EXIT signs. The majority of companies post a variation of: "Our mission is to be the preferred supplier in our chosen market place." If they’re on an aggressive growth path, "dominant" is substituted for "preferred." This retailer illustrates the point: "We intend to be the dominant supplier of auto parts in our market areas by…" This is the template for almost all retailers. The sheer majesty of it makes you feel all tingly doesn’t it?

You can write your "mission" on one of two levels. The economic level — the nomos — is about numbers, size and things easily measured. This is what too many think work is all about. The sad thing is we mistakenly label that as "purpose." Look, no one has market share or gross profit margin stats carved into their gravestone.

The other level is ecological — the logos — the "word"; your deepest meaning; what really holds your life together and tells everyone why you are taking up space on this planet. It’s about what good your company is doing.

Mission statement

Microsoft’s original mission was economic: "A computer on every desk and in every home." It’s been changed to: "Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more." — a more ecological mission. That’s why some think it’s "strange." We’re conditioned to focus on profit not purpose.

Is your organization’s "mission" economic or ecological? Here are a few suggestions out of a much longer list as to how you can put enduring power into your mission.

  1. Make your mission ecological by asking how your organization is making the world a better place. What delights you about the work? What makes it an awesome privilege?
  2. Write your ecological mission from the customer’s point of view. The customer doesn’t care about you dominating the marketplace. Show your mission statement to a customer and they should gasp in awe and blurt out, "That’s what I want too!" It doesn’t get any better than having your customers want what you want.
  3. Of course, financial issues are vital! If we don’t make money we don’t have a business. But here’s how to align purpose and profit: make your mission ecological and your goals economic.

The energy we need to be successful is found in our purpose. When we get our ecological, higher purpose right, the economics will follow. Peak purpose always precedes peak performance.

What do you think makes a strong mission statement? How should mission statements differ, if at all, for retailers versus companies that supply and provide services for them?

Braintrust
"To begin with a mission statement ought to provide a company with a sustainable point of authentic differentiation, preferably one as unique as possible. Ian’s Microsoft example offers a case study on how easy it is for "missions" to become obsolete."
"A strong mission statement is ANY mission statement that is actually followed and implemented by the leadership in such a way that it affects the organization’s performance — preferably positively. These are just below "unicorns" on the list of rare sightings."
"I like mission statements that are clear, actionable and measurable, even if they are not completely metric in nature."

Join the Discussion!

16 Comments on "Is your mission statement ‘strange’?"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dick Seesel
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
Regardless of the type of company or organization, I believe that a mission statement ought to be relatable to its “business” in a tangible way. This doesn’t mean that it needs to be as metrics-driven as the original Microsoft mission statement, but it’s nice to know what business you’re in. I volunteer for a local independent school which rewrote its mission statement recently in sync with a new strategic plan. It’s arguable that the mission statement could be more concise, but it’s beyond debate that it’s all about the core values of a school. The Microsoft mission statement, as written,… Read more »
Phil Rubin
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
A strong mission statement is essential and, if it is properly crafted, it is differentiating and reflective of your purpose. While there’s been a lot written about missions and purpose, some worthwhile (e.g., Ian’s piece above) and some BS, ecological trumps economic. Any private company includes in its mission profiting, whether those profits are for shareholders or for philanthropic purposes. Our firm’s mission is simple and reflective of what we see as the core value we deliver: “Making the world better for customers and the brands that care about them.” For us, there’s more than the obvious connection to customer… Read more »
Grace Kim
Guest
Grace Kim
2 years 5 months ago

A strong mission statement should encompass the company’s purpose and value and the value it brings to its audience. Perhaps Microsoft should have qualified its mission statement by adding “through technology” at the end to tie it back to Microsoft’s core competency. I think retailers should also focus on the value it brings to their customers for the mission statement. Without delivering value as a focal point of existence, retailers will miss the mark in serving their customers.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
To begin with a mission statement ought to provide a company with a sustainable point of authentic differentiation, preferably one as unique as possible. Ian’s Microsoft example offers a case study on how easy it is for “missions” to become obsolete. The original “a computer on every desk in every home” language implies worlds of limitations, i.e., a computer is a separate object, large enough not to be conveniently portable and best accessed from a fixed physical location. Hardly a visionary position for company aspiring to lead the world computer industry. On the other hand, mission statements can be a… Read more »
Gordon Arnold
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
Mission statements are a very powerful means to provide support for the successes of a very large company in acquiring and growing market share and profits. In the United States, where winning is everything, recurrent winners are very often resented and snubbed to the extent that the company fails and either is absorbed in a merger process or simply erodes to insignificance or to its end. Winning mission statements will align a company’s success with the public’s opinion by using positive identifiers to demonstrate where the company’s success is and what its intentions and benefits are. The single word that… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
A mission statement should embody the essence of what a company is about. Microsoft’s old mission statement was relevant when most every computer ran Windows. Working to get everyone to have a computer at home and in the workplace meant that most everyone was using Windows. Now that computers, smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous and they are not all running Windows, and now that computers on desks are not the only devices using operating systems, clearly Microsoft has to change their mission statement. The new one implies that their software now needs to enhance productivity. That is quite a challenge… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

A strong mission statement is ANY mission statement that is actually followed and implemented by the leadership in such a way that it affects the organization’s performance — preferably positively.

These are just below “unicorns” on the list of rare sightings.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

A great mission statement should show the reason that your firm exists. If you want to be honest and the only reason you exist is you want to make a profit then make that your mission statement. “We exist to make a profit, at least we have honesty and transparency.”

On the other hand if you exist to solve a problem then present the problem you are going to solve. At Humetrics this one line says it all: “We help companies build a front line workforce that will build their bottom line.”

That is our mission.

Dave Wendland
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

Perhaps I’ll be the odd man out here, but I actually applaud the direction that Microsoft is headed and think their new mission statement is spot on. The prior statement, in its time, was very good and direct. It also rallied the troops with a singular focus centered on computers. As we all know, Microsoft is much, much more than desktop computing.

Strong mission statements should provide purpose, direction, aspiration and inspiration. And I don’t believe mission statements for retailers versus suppliers need to be approached differently.

Steven Kuhlman
Guest
Steven Kuhlman
2 years 5 months ago

Mission and vision statements are one of my pet peeves. At one time I was on the board of a church school. They wanted to develop a mission and vision statement and spent countless hours hashing out the wording. As mentioned in the discussion, they are superficial mush. The average consumer doesn’t decide whether to buy your product based on the mission statement but rather on whether your product fills a need at the offered price.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

I like mission statements that are clear, actionable and measurable, even if they are not completely metric in nature. You have to be able to measure the less tangible tactical objectives or the statement loses its credibility. Retail and CPG brand mission statements most often revolve around the consumer, which is a good thing. The challenge is that mission statements often overlap or are in place of “vision” statements and also delve into goals and objectives. These all need to be articulated individually and distinctly.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
You know, I would worry less about the “mission statement” and more about the actual mission. When we started RSR eight years ago, we knew our goal was to change the advisory research model. We wanted to focus close in on the retail industry, not five years out. We wanted to be objective. We wanted to be “smart.” We wanted to make the retail industry a better place. We never wrote it down that way, but I venture to say all four partners would say something pretty similar. If Microsoft means it, they’ll do great things. If they don’t, they’ll… Read more »
Adrian Weidmann
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

The strength of a mission statement is based upon the degree of empowerment each employee has to fulfill the mission. Retailers need to focus on their shoppers and customers. Every interaction with the brand should reflect the words in your mission statement. I absolutely agree that if the ecological — or higher purpose — is correct, the economic benefits will follow.

The power of your mission statement is directly proportional to the degree that each and every employee embraces its purpose and is empowered to respond and react to the benefit of their shoppers and customers.

Chuck Palmer
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

I think too much is made of these things. It is an internal thing that, if the culture is strong, should make sense to leadership and staff alike. Ideally it should inspire and be something everyone can rally behind.

Too often these get mixed up with outward messaging. Again, it should inspire and connect with customers, but in the end, customers get to define value.

When I approve an investment in a Microsoft enterprise solution, will I feel empowered to do more? Wait, that’s Dell’s ad tag line…nevermind.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

A strong mission statement defines the end state, timeframe and reasoning/path. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” It is the classic example of strong inspiration goals. Not every retailer can do a “moonshot” but a good mission statement needs to have enough parameters to make it actionable and set the proper expectations of the path to success which includes the bumpy road.

Seeta Hariharan
Guest
2 years 5 months ago
I believe a strong mission statement makes a clear promise to the enduser, whether that be B2B or B2C, and is symbolic of the ethics and values of the organization and its employees at large. For retailers specifically, putting the customer at the heart of this statement is essential. Organizations that articulate value across an expanded and connected customer journey will reap the rewards of meaningful and enduring customer relationships that yield increased loyalty, growth and market share. In my opinion, two good examples of strong mission statements include The Ritz Carlton Hotel, a place where the genuine care and… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"To begin with a mission statement ought to provide a company with a sustainable point of authentic differentiation, preferably one as unique as possible. Ian’s Microsoft example offers a case study on how easy it is for "missions" to become obsolete."
"A strong mission statement is ANY mission statement that is actually followed and implemented by the leadership in such a way that it affects the organization’s performance — preferably positively. These are just below "unicorns" on the list of rare sightings."
"I like mission statements that are clear, actionable and measurable, even if they are not completely metric in nature."

Take Our Instant Poll

Would you describe your organization’s mission statement as economic or ecological?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...