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A couple weeks ago in my Strategic Management class, we brought up the topic of mission statements. Our professor wanted us to answer the following questions in relations to an article by CUNNINGHAM entitled Lead by example, not words:

Do mission statements reflect reality? Why or why not? What are you experiences and can you provide other examples to support (or not) Cunningham’s views.

Cunningham argues that most mission statements are outdated and in need of a makeover. At first, mission statements sounded like a good idea, but it has lost its touch over the years.

The following quote from the article expresses his views:

“Somewhere between 1943 and 2011, mission statements lost their way. They went from a tool to guide entire organizations to something that you could slap on a marketing piece to get more people to buy your goods and services. Words like “excellence” and “best of breed” and other meaningless phrases started to infect mission statements. Plaques were hung and meetings were held, neither of which made a lick of difference in the behaviour of the people on the front line. Employees, of course, smelled the nonsense from a mile away. Executives ignored the gap between the words on their walls and the actions of their employees because nobody seemed to notice. In those days, brands were built based on the words you chose.”

He then goes on saying that the internet and search engines brought this issue out with a lot of companies. Dell was preaching about “best customer service” in their mission statement, but did not actually practice it.

I agree with Cunningham. Most companies nowadays only use mission statements as a fancy tag line on a marketing piece. They hope that this will help increase sales.

To be serious, if you slap “best customer service” on your mission statement to increase sales, you are setting yourself up for failure. As soon as someone gets bad customer service, they can spread it on the magical thing called the internet. This creates disconnect between your brand and its values. Practice what you preach. Words and logos are only part of a brand. The key word there is PART.

What the company actually does is really what the brand represents. Not some fancy buzz words on a mission statement. If you are going to create a mission statement, make it meaningful. Make it represent your brand, organization, company, employees, customers, etc.

Tim Horton’s uses: “Always fresh, in everything that we do”. What do you think about that? I think it’s great! It lets everyone know what they are about without using fancy buzz words.

Now, to keep the debate going, I will ask you the same questions as my professor asked us. Do mission statements reflect reality? Why or why not? What are you experiences and can you provide other examples to support (or not) Cunningham’s views.

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