I’ve paid attention to the mission, vision and values statements posted on the walls of several corporate offices I’ve visited recently. Nearly all of them use a lot of big, aspirational words that are combined to create long-winded phrases that are boring and generic — and too often cliched. With all due respect to the success of the Fortune 500, its listing of mission and values statements quickly becomes obscure after the first dozen or so.
I won’t implicate any specific companies, but I’ll cite some of the most commonly abused words: powered, innovation, integrity, honesty, trust, accountability, responsibility, solutions, excellence, superior, committed and standard. You get the idea. You’d think we’re getting ready for an intense session of bullshitbingo.
The problem with so many mission and values statements is that they’re more like superficial marketing slogans, something which humans are increasingly programmed to disregard, ignore or distrust. That contrasts with true values, which are long-term attributes that people internalize and act on through good times and bad.
Steven Blank, a retired entrepreneur and author of “The Four Steps To The Epiphany,” said in a recent speech (18:33 in the video): “Ethics and values are not what you put in plaques or tell your employees… It’s the stuff you practice when the stuff hits the fan.”
And that’s a fact.
While articulating mission statements and values is key, the true expression of them is when a company’s members — leaders from all ranks — actually live them out (or not). That’s why actions, narratives and artifacts that reflect and validate mission and values should be consciously curated, communicated, celebrated and preserved. They are far more credible and persuasive than the actual words — especially the favored, hollow words — relied upon as the foundation for most mission and values statements.
This also was my latest MediaPost column.
(Photo credit:Â Eduard Zelinger)