The Quarterly Oppressor: Mission Statement Mistakes

Ever wonder what separates a real corporation from some schlub with a small business and a cheap lawyer? The answer is a mission statement. Nothing gives the impression of corporate power and prestige like a well-worded mission statement. But before you go grab a fresh Crayola and start spilling words out in the nearest three-ring notebook, there are some things you need to know.

The biggest problem with mission statements is that it isn’t that easy to change them. If you constantly change your goals, people will think your business has no focus. And if there’s one thing that matters to a corporation, it’s what people think.

When crafting your mission statement, the best approach is to keep it short and simple. Take this old Microsoft mission statement for example:

“To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.”

This mission statement allows them to do pretty much whatever they want, without deviating from their stated flight plan. Whether you’re selling software or hawking oranges on the side of a freeway, you could say you are trying to help people reach their potential.

Now look at this one from Merck:

“Provide society with superior products and services by developing innovations and solutions that improve the quality of life and satisfy customer needs, and to provide employees with meaningful work and advancement opportunities, and investors with a superior rate of return.”

If you’re still awake, you can probably already see the numerous problems with this. First off, they are making way too many promises. It’s never a good idea to make anything resembling a promise in your mission statement. When you make promises, people like to get all uppity and try to hold you to them.

Merck’s second mistake is mentioning employees. Not only are their customers going start feeling special, but so are all the office slags. You want to keep the slags happy. You can’t do that if you start making false promises to them. Do you think Ol’ Stink Eye Jones in the mailroom finds his job meaningful? Of course he doesn’t. He only works there because he’s a freak of nature and couldn’t find work in a circus. I guess people just aren’t willing to buy tickets to see someone with smelly eyeballs.

What are you going to do when Jones slithers up behind you in the break room one day and asks you about those “advancement opportunities?”

The best way to go about crafting a mission statement is the same way a corporate monster should go about anything: forming a committee. Gather anyone you can find who has a college degree and lock them in a room with a thesaurus. Furthermore, you should only consider those with degrees that directly relate to math or science. You don’t want any creative types mucking up the works with their emotional drivel.

With these guidelines you should be able to assemble a good committee and develop a perfectly adequate mission statement. Good luck!