Friday, February 02, 2007

Mission Statements (Rambling...)

Just rambling.....!

Being an idealist, I have a fascination for Mission statements. Personal as well as corporate; (Hey, why leave out families? I love the concept of mission statements for families as well. ;)) In my opinion, mission statements that just revolve around money or ranking (fame/popularity) are not worth the paper they are written on. Because, they can’t truly inspire everyone (employees) to perform. Even if we were to assume that they can - if the mission is only about making money or becoming the No.1 in some kind of eye-washing list, you don’t have to stay with a PARTICULAR organization to do it in case you are looking for your own, individual, involvement/contribution to such a mission. It will make sense only if the employee is ‘attached’ to the organization and feels a sense of pride in being associated with it. What does an employee get out of contributing to the organization’s ranking/turnover? Pride and maybe job security and better salary as indirect consequences. If this is all that the employee wants at the end of the day, he can still work with another company with a similar potential and ambitions and end up feeling proud as well earn a good salary. And come to think of it, would false pride and job security/salary be sufficient in case there are ground-problems that override the pride as associated with the world outside the organization? And needless to say, an organization that is only focused on its bottom-line is bound to be plagued by ground-problems. So, what is it that can keep an employee with a PARTICULAR company apart from the basic requirements?

In one of the training programmes I was in, we discussed the difference between Goals and Purpose. (A goal could be delivering something to the customer on a particular date while the purpose could be to build skills/gain knowledge/learn, to delight the customer, to make money, to directly or indirectly contribute to the development of the society, etc) The class had a somewhat skeptical response to my statement that a team with a common sense of purpose is unbeatable as compared to one with a common goal. They did not challenge the logic in the statement per se but were very doubtful about finding a team with a common purpose. The trainer said it was probable only in perhaps a group of people fighting for independence. I do think that it is tough to create or find a team with a common purpose but not impossible. There are brilliant and dynamic teams that have social upliftment as a common purpose, teams that have innovation as their sole purpose, teams that want to save the environment, teams that want to win a game for its country, launch a rocket etc.

Thus, in my opinion, one single reason why an employee would stick to a particular organization would be its unique and meaningful mission statement that the employee identifies with…….due to the values it reflects. But, reiterating the question that was posed earlier, is it possible for a commercial and for-profit organization to be of such a character - Have an inspiring sense of purpose, set of values and ensure complete involvement, consistent communication, and a following in word and spirit? Organizations can’t take their eyes off the top and bottom lines. But, I believe that obsessive focus on making money will dilute the sense of purpose. What are the examples of organizations that belong to this category? Or at least come close to it? I myself have come across a few companies that at least claim to focus equally on things other than just making money. Like making employees happy, identifying products that help conserve the environment, etc. Such companies, in my opinion, are bound to do much better than ordinary companies. The common sense of purpose ensures that the teams perform really well, employees are happy, they trust each other, they give each other credit and encouragement, they discuss mistakes openly and are generally honest in their dealings. Do you have/have you had the bliss of being a part of such a team? :)

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