The Vision and Mission Thing(s) LO20657 -comic relief!
Wed, 10 Feb 1999 08:27:45 EST

Replying to LO20603 --

Hello, everyone!

There have been some serious responses to recent questions on developing
mission and vision statements, so I thought I'd weigh in with something
that's a bit on the lighter side. The following Q-and-A comes from my web
site, which provides ideas, strategies, and tools for building a
meaningful workplace. It's at If you're having a
particularly rough day and want to go straight to the lighter stuff, head
for Enjoy!

-- Tom
Tom Terez
Columbus, Ohio

-----HERE'S THE CLIP----->

Q. What exactly is the difference between a mission statement and a vision
statement, and how can ours be world class?

A. There is a critically important difference between these two key
ingredients of an effective organization. A recent study, conducted by the
American Association of People Who Don't Mind and In Fact Advocate Long-
Windedness in Their Communications, showed that the typical mission
statement includes two semicolons, two dashes, and at least two business
buzzwords -- while the vision statement contains only one dash but makes
up for it with at least one run-on sentence. To be at all credible, a
company's mission and vision statements combined must include at least
five of the following terms and phrases:

high performance
world class
employees are our most important asset
right the first time
everyone's job
puts people first
puts the customer first
puts employee bonuses first

Of course, examples are the best way to convey these important guidelines.
Here is what the little-known Anon Company* came up with after spending
eight hours in a hotel meeting room, during which the organization's 35
employees consumed 102 donuts, 90 cups of coffee, 68 soft drinks
(including 24 cans of Jolt Cola), 35 boxed lunches, and countless
peppermint candies:

"Our mission is to develop a high-performance mission statement -- one
that puts the customer first, puts employees first, and does it right the
first time -- in a way that delights anyone who had concerns that this
mission statement would actually mean something; in order to show that
employees can exceed expectations for how much unhealthy food they can
consume during a single work day; and so we can get out of this damn hotel
room with its thermostat that we can't control and end this madness an
hour early."

This mission statement clearly conveys that the employees of Anon are bold
risk-takers, as demonstrated by their brazen abuse of their
high-performance gastrointestinal systems. The employees also show a
command of key business terms, particularly those words and phrases that
have had the meaning squeezed out of them years ago. And let's not ignore
the powerful empowerment reference at the very end of the statement.

The team from Anon also developed a vision statement:

"Our vision is to be a world-class organization -- one that becomes a
benchmark for other organizations, so they can copy what we do and get it
right in about five years, by which time we will be light years ahead of
them; one that impresses its customers the first time and every time with
its plastic-laminated mission and vision statements; and one that fully
empowers its employees so they aren't forced to spend an entire day in a
freezing-cold hotel meeting room churning out run-on sentences while the
real work backs up."

These statements are guaranteed to strike a deep chord in employees,
customers, and printers of plastic-laminated cards. Imagine the Anon
employee who needs a quick dose of direction or inspiration. All they'll
need to do is reach into their wallet or purse and -- oh gee, I must have
thrown it out.

Seriously, when done right, mission and vision statements can give an
organization an incredibly powerful sense of purpose and direction. Here
are several things to keep in mind:

-- Five different people are likely to have five different definitions of
"mission statement" and "vision statement." Begin any dialogue by reaching
consensus on one definition for each. Otherwise, well-intended people will
go off in wildly different directions.

-- Steer clear of phrasing debates, in which the mission- and vision-
development process becomes an exercise in fine writing. That doesn't mean
you should give in to bad grammar and lousy punctuation. Rather, have two
or three group members massage the wording after the main discussions.
They can bring one or two clean versions to the next all-group session.

-- Remember that the process of developing mission and vision statements
is as important as -- some would even say more important than -- the
output. When people take time to craft the concepts, they learn more about
each other, their work, their customers, and their overall system -- not
to mention their past, present, and future as an organization.

-- When developing mission and vision statements, involve people from all
areas and levels of the organization. They're the ones who will be making
it happen -- so doesn't it make sense to have their hands on the clay?
Yes, it's tough to orchestrate widespread co-creation. Consider tapping
the services of an outside facilitator who can bring neutrality and the
needed know-how to pull it off.

* PLEASE NOTE: Anon Company is not a real company. The name has been
entirely made up for the purpose of this article. Anon = Anonymous, get
it? But it's a big country, and for all I know, there may be a real Anon
Company, the CEO of which is reading this right now. Well, any name
similarity would be purely coincidental, accidental, transcendental, and
so forth. If there is a real Anon Company out there, I'm certain it's an
excellent organization with world- class mission and vision statements,
and I encourage you to buy its products and/or services in great

Copyright 1998 by Tom Terez


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