We need leaders who get up and out, are close to global megatrends and consumer behaviour, and understand leading indicators for changes to how people will work and live.
A self described “leadership consultant”
Continued from Part One.
Starting sometime – I’m thinking late in the 1980s – organisations started changing their weekend team-building retreats – where everyone went canoeing and abseiling – to strategy retreats. At strategy retreats the idea is that everyone empties their minds and the group starts with clean sheets of paper. Often a retreat begins and ends with attention to metaphysical questions like “What is our mission?”. Another fave was “Where to we want to be in ten years time?”. The very question blasted away all those cobwebs of short term thinking and you could Think Big. Megatrends were discussed. I’d love to know the history of this transformation from abseiling to Big Thinking as it seems a massive cultural shift in many, many ways.
One story that stuck out for me, and that was often told as some kind of illustration of the importance of the apex questions being posed was the company that made carpets and eventually realised, though this astringent process of navel gazing, starting with a clean sheet of paper, thinking long-term, gettingout of the weeds, looking to the heavens for deeper insight, that it was in fact supplying its customers floor covering needs. Don’t laugh – this actually had a point. The upshot was that the firm reconfigured its offering as a flooring services solutions company. Still sounds like a joke I know, but that’s because it’s become a cliché. This was a genuine and valuable corporate reinvention. They made a lot more money and, by taking responsibility for the end of life of its products improved both economic and environmental efficiency. But I suspect this was real strategy – brought about by some smart people, perhaps some strategy people and if not some research capacity and testing before the strategy was ‘rolled out’ as we say.
In any event, by the naughties this approach had become pretty much a business monoculture. Virtually all organisations in the private, public and, following not long after, the not-for-profit sector, had ‘mission statements’. As you know the ‘mission’ of the organisation would be summarised in some short pithy catchphrase. This could be a little embarrassing because what they did was run a particular organisation – say a newsagency, or a TV station or a government department, but that wasn’t the answer to the question “what do we do?” or “what is our mission?”. They were after an answer that might do a number of things.
The same article I’ve just cited outlines the many functions of “mission statements”.
- To communicate a sense of the direction and purpose of the organization.
- To serve as a control mechanism for keeping the firm “on track.”
- To aid in making day-to-day decisions.
- To inspire and motivate employees.
- Mission Statements as a Communication Tool
The fact that there are so many purposes for mission statements gives the game away. Continue reading