Before you read any further, take a moment and repeat your organization’s Mission Statement.  If you could actually remember it, now compare what you said with the actual text of the written statement.

Chances are you couldn’t remember it.  Many can’t even come close.  And coming close doesn’t include having the ‘basic idea behind the text’.  When I ask people to tell me the actual words of their Mission Statement, most can’t.  

Mission Statements are one of the most overused and least productive tools in business today. I am convinced that they fail to serve their intended purpose. 

Usually developed by a ‘team’ of cross functional senior executives, they are memorable mostly for the off-site meeting where they went for a day or five to create them.  They’re mostly painfully long.  Because they’re developed by committee, they usually satisfy no one because the creators tried to have a little something in it for everyone – managers, shareholders, employees and customers.  They usually fail in the attempt to make everyone feel some ‘ownership’ – in truth no one feels any.

Here’s one I do like, though:

“Our goal is to assertively supply economically sound infrastructures and enthusiastically administrate high-payoff materials for 100% customer satisfaction.” 

I like it because it’s clear about what it’s attempting to do.  And what’s that?  It’s trying to show us how crappy most Mission Statements really are.  I got it from the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator website.  The site creates statements which, I suspect, could make some ‘team facilitators’ very happy – while at the same time accomplishing little for the company.

Now, can remember the Golden Rule?  Many people, regardless of their religion, can tell me what it says; although very few can give me more than a few components of their company’s mission statement. The message of the Golden Rule is:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

It’s actually more like a slogan or a mantra. It’s clearly memorable – you can find it in the teachings of at least 23 religions.

People do great things when they are motivated, but very few Mission Statements are motivational. I mean, if you can’t remember what it says, how motivational could it be?  And this is true for all levels of management and staff – no one pays much attention to them.  Don’t believe me? Test my opinion by stopping your boss and then asking her or him to recall it. Even if (s)he can tell it to you, it’s unlikely to be inspirational.

For a statement to be memorable and motivational it can only be a max of 10 words long.  And shorter is better. 

I realize that this won’t sit well with all the business consultants – there are actually Mission Statement Consultants – who make their living telling companies how important these things are.  Sorry about that. 

And, for any of you presidents out there reading this, I suggest you take a page from billionaire Charles (Chuck) Dolan’s playbook.  (His New York company owns Cablevision, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, Rainbow Media, and the Knicks.  He launched HBO way back when.)  Chuck’s not big on using committees to make important decisions; and he told me a couple of years ago that when you have an idea which will affect your business or company, just tell everyone who needs to know. 

Pretty simple. Most really good management ideas are.  

And P.S.Mr. President: Take the money you would have spent on the ‘management offsite’ and use it to celebrate the whole team when you hit your milestones. That’s motivational.

–          john