Tuesday August 21, 2012
Alice in Wonderland lesson for companies without a mission
Talking HR with Melissa Norman
ONE day, Alice came across the grinning Cheshire cat resting on a branch. “Cheshire Cat, would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” she asked.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.
“I don't much care where ” said Alice.
“Then it doesn't matter which what you go,” said the cat.
“ so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you're sure to do that,” said the cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
It's surprising how much we can learn from Lewis Carroll's fairy tale if we apply its wisdom to a mission statement for our business and the policies we craft to guide our people on their way at work.
If you apply what the cat said to running a business, you will learn that if you don't know where you are going, it doesn't matter which way you go.
That said, if you don't know which direction your business should take, you won't be in business for very long!
It's true that if Alice walks long enough, she'll get somewhere but in real life, there is no time to wait until your business gets somewhere. Eventually, without proper direction, such a business will fail.
As the first phase of a strategic management process, the company has to establish a strategic mission. This mission statement sets out the organisation's ground rules its approach to doing business.
A good mission statement will normally have some or all of the following:
The company's shared beliefs and values
A definition of the business (What needs to be satisfied? Which markets? How to reach those markets? How to deliver products and services to those markets?), and
The company's attitudes to growth and financing.
The mission statement should be broadly framed. It's a statement of objectives of a company.
All employees should know the meaning of the mission statement, hence it should be concise and unambiguous.
Good mission statements should be exciting and inspiring like the national pledge students recite at school assemblies and flag-raising ceremonies.
Fred David of Auburn University, Alabama, relates a famous story about three labourers working on a building site.
A passer-by asked what they were doing. The first replied: “Breaking stones.” The second said: “Earning a living.” But the third answered: “Helping to build a cathedral.”
David emphasises that every organisation should motivate its employees through a mission statement so that they adopt the third labourer's attititude to their daily tasks.
The mission should be a clear statement of direction which motivates all employees. Take for example the mission/vision of a watch and jewellery company.
“To be recognised globally as the premier specialist watch and jewellery retailer in the Asia-Pacific region; making it the only port of call for all fine watch and jewellery consumers alike.”
Good mission statements are not difficult to frame. With the help of a dedicated team and someone with a good command of the language, you too can come up with a mission statement that your company can be proud of.
Drafting a statement
The drafting of the mission statement should be done by a team of employees after getting suggestions from all staff members. Some recommend that several experts from outside the organisation participate in the formulation of the mission statement.
As facilitators, they can contribute new ideas as they are unfamiliar with the company.
When drafting a mission statement, take care to include these:
l The purpose statement
The business statement, and
The purpose statement sums up what your organisation aims to accomplish. Questions to answer are: Why does your company exist? What is the final result of your work?
The business statement outlines the activities of programmes the company has selected to reach its objectives.
What activity are we going to do to accomplish our purpose?
Values are beliefs which the organisation and staff adhere to, and endeavour to put into practice.
These values guide the staff in the performance of their work.
Values include the relationships of the firm with society at large, customers, suppliers, employees, local community and stakeholders.
The question asked can be: What are the basic beliefs we share as a company?
When you have managed to help your company phrase a mission statement, the next step is to make sure it is shared and understood by all your employees.
It needs to be visually placed in your work spaces and also brought up for discussion from time to time during regular team meetings to check in on staff understanding and to clarify/reinforce key messages.
Rules and regulations at work are more than that those drafted in your employment contract.
So, sharing your company's mission statement is very much in the way every one of us walks the talk.
And if anyone comes to you seeking clarification, be kind. Help set them on the right path. All will win, that way.
l Melissa feels that everyone should set aside for oneself some time to draft a personal mission statement to guide one's life. What do you want to do for society, your family, your friends, your county, and yourself?