The much-maligned mission statement (Guest Commentary)

Let’s stop complaining about them and use them properly
By Ken Keis
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/25/2004

If an organization does not have a written vision that is embraced by all of its members, profits and productivity suffer. Organizations professing to believe in their vision and mission statements, but which do not practise their values, are worse off than companies with no direction at all. Saying one thing to employees and doing another kills a company’s credibility and causes employee commitment and productivity to nose-dive.

Here are the results of interviews with 500 employees and managers.

•About 95 per cent of the employees interviewed said the organization’s vision, mission, and values were very important to them.

•The lack of shared and documented direction frustrates employees. More than 65 per cent of employees interviewed said they were significantly frustrated by their organization’s lack of direction. Most staff members said their productivity would improve if work objectives and expectations were more clearly defined.

•Vision and mission statements are ineffective without a plan of action. Most employees surveyed said they felt there was no clear plan to get their organization to where it needed to go. Two-thirds of respondents who said their company had a plan and a vision of where it was going, also said that clear direction improved the quality of their work.

•An organization’s vision and plan can be scuttled by a poor manager. The primary factor linked to job satisfaction and performance was work environment, which supervisors and managers create and support.

•Business profits are linked to the implementation of an organization’s vision, mission, and values statements. The key word here is implementation. Talking about it will not get a company there. Ninety-eight per cent of the survey respondents said they believed their organization could be run more efficiently. Less than 25 per cent believed the company supported the implementation of its vision and plan with the required resources. This is where lack of credibility becomes a destructive factor in an organization.

Respondents were asked for their views about why their organization had low productivity or poor performance. More than half said they could not have a conversation with their company’s leaders without hearing judgmental comments. When that is true in an organization, maximum profitability is just a dream. People will shut down before they will mention obvious improvements that could help the business.

If managers make a promise and don’t keep it, credibility takes a big hit. Many employees said they could not trust their management to keep or follow through on promises. This significantly affected loyalty and productivity.

Other comments included complaints about management incompetence, the lack of employee recognition and rewards and the inconsistency of quality and performance standards. In the research, managers who did not hold staff accountable to preset standards actually lost additional performance from other staff members who were observing the situation.

So, managers need to take a look at their mission statement and determine whether it is being supported on the ground. If there is no mission statement, create one now. The sooner it is in place and embraced, the sooner productivity will go up.

Ken Keis is the president and CEO of Consulting Resource Group in Abbotsford, B.C. (www.crgleader.com). This article is based on his MBA research on the impact of mission statements on profitability. He can be reached at (604) 852-0566 or ken@crgleader.com.

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