Mission statements and other works of fiction
Mission statements and other works of fiction
The Mission statement has possibly passed its zenith of popularity as we move into a vastly less certain post-Covid-19 world.
Global shutdowns, with their unforeseeable and incalculable impacts on staffing, access to essential goods and materials, and consumer purchasing patterns have flipped the business world on its head. Once thriving industries have lost their customer bases, as other industries have boomed in the bizarre global lockdown apocalypse. A dearth of staff (even bad staff) has made operations extremely difficult and close to impossible in some industries. This has been brought home harshly in recent months (this being written in July 2022), with unprecedented numbers of sudden flight cancellations simply because there have not been enough staff available to safely man airplanes. Some restaurants and small supermarkets struggle to offer their usual opening hours for the same reasons – they cannot find willing workers. Walk through shopping centres and city streets and you will see empty shop fronts and more ‘For Lease’ signs than ever before in our collective living memory.
Is it possible to even create a mission statement in such a state of upheaval and uncertainty?
According to an internet search on the subject, the mission statement is still perceived to be relevant and important. It has been joined by vision and purpose statements that are understood to be critical in ‘clarifying … key elements of your organisation’s strategic plan, before operational plans are developed.’
The mission statement describes the services and/or goods an organisation delivers, and for whom they do this. It may include a statement of benefit, such as what this particular good or service will give the customer.
The vision statement is aspirational. It is a pointer to the future an organisation envisions for itself.
The purpose statement, if an organisation has one, describes the reason for an organisation’s existence.
The three are considered to be crucial forms of communication to customers, investors, competitors, suppliers, aligned organisations and staff. It is through these three statements a company describes its purpose, its activities, its aims and itself to the world.
Mission, vision and purpose statements act like the opening paragraph on an individual’s resumé; when written honestly, they form a succinct, clear and open introduction to the raison d’être for the company, how it serves its customers and how it positions itself in the world. This sounds great and very important in the setting of goals and plans. How on earth can an effective plan be made if you don’t know who you are, what you are doing, who you are doing it for and why you are doing it?
Much like the opening paragraph in a person’s resumé, these statements can also be a collection of aspirations – a compilation of wishes, hopes and dreams. In this instance the mission statement describes the traits we would like our organisation to have but have not attained yet. If the organisation is aware of the gap (between what they would like to be and what they are), and if they are honest about it, then they have something to work on. It is commendable if they get on and actually do the work to close the gap thus making the words a reality.
Mission statements become a problem when they in no way reflect the actual ethos, activities and practices of an organisation. This is one of the chief reasons that they have come to be regarded with cynicism and mistrust. There is nothing more overtly hypocritical than a fictional mission statement that has been thrown together, knowing that no one will pay attention to it once it has been written.
Then there are the deliberately crafted statements, designed to conceal a whole other agenda that cannot be named because it would give too much away about what is really driving the organisation. How often this level of outright dishonesty occurs is unknown and unknowable. There is a phenomenal level of self-delusion that human beings are capable of, rendering them blind and deaf to the dishonesty that may govern their movements. Maybe they actually believe the lies? Do they really think they care as their rapacious behaviours suggest otherwise? How many of us have worked in organisations in which the stated aims exist on a piece of paper, a nice plaque on the wall, or a webpage . . . but are nowhere to be seen in the realm of actual, living and breathing reality? How many of us have witnessed the bare-faced chasm between claims of ‘customer service first and foremost’, when the everyday activity is completely driven by profiteering, concealment of faults and reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of consumers?
How about when this occurs at industrial scale, such as the current and unfolding scandal in housing in Australia? In 2021 it was reported that ‘more than a quarter of new Sydney apartment blocks have defects . . .’ These are not trivial defects. ‘ . . . This week, it was reported that an engineer’s report has found an apartment building in Sydney’s south-west to be at serious risk of collapse due to structural flaws.’
The seriousness of this problem (with the worst scenario being people rendered homeless whilst paying a mortgage for a property that is uninhabitable) has prompted at least two NSW government inquiries into the regulation of building standards. The results of these inquiries remain to be seen, but if we are willing to be honest, real and lasting change to corrupt practices within the building industry and all the industries and political elements that support it are unlikely.
‘We could not care less about the quality of our completed buildings. All we are interested in is making as much money as possible and reducing costs, even when those reductions compromise the safety and well-being of our customers. Your welfare and that of your family is of no matter to us in our race for profits and the satisfaction of our greedy shareholders.’ It is a fairly safe bet that the building companies responsible for the defective buildings did not have these words in their mission, vision or purpose statements.
If they did say that, at least we would all know where we stood. The honesty would be refreshing.
The irony cannot be lost that in April 2017, Forbes Magazine highlighted Jeff Bezos (founder and executive chairman of the online shopping behemoth Amazon), championing his ‘clearly articulated corporate purpose and management philosophy that meaningfully guides decision-making at all levels of this 340,000 employee firm.’ In October 2021 the same magazine delivered the following: ‘A Hard-Hitting Investigative Report Into Amazon Shows That Workers’ Needs Were Neglected In Favor Of Getting Goods Delivered Quickly.’ The New York Times reported ‘For at least a year and a half – including during periods of record profit – Amazon had been shortchanging (sic) new parents, patients dealing with medical crises and other vulnerable workers on leave, according to a confidential report on the findings. Some of the pay calculations at her facility had been wrong since it opened its doors over a year before. As many as 179 of the company’s other warehouses had potentially been affected, too.’
Ah yes. The corporate giant who knew how to make a mission statement fly . . . as the people he employed sank into poverty and despair. It is unlikely that real cost to the mental and physical well-being of his staff will be calculated, or that he will be held to fulsome account. Isn’t it interesting that Amazon’s net sales in the first quarter of 2022 increased by 7%. What this says about the rest of us (the mass of consumers) ought to be alarming, if only we could stop online shopping for long enough to consider it. Maybe we couldn’t care less about the mission statement as a work of fiction? As long as we get cheap prices, mission statements can be barefaced lies, as all the while people are harmed . . .
Let’s bring it closer to home. How many of us have worked in companies with mission, vision and purpose statements? Perhaps you never have and never noticed the absence. How many of us have worked for organisations that have these statements and adhere to them to the letter at all levels, from staff to stakeholder to customer satisfaction? How many of us have worked in the agonising chasm between stated aims and the actuality – whether it be a matter of lousy organisational practices that cannot achieve the objectives or the horror show of outright hypocrisy, fraud and falsehood that cynically uses the mission statement as a theoretic exercise or a cover for corruption – a work of blatant fiction?
In the light of this, what then is a mission statement and what is its actual value? If this is a tool of genuine value (and I am not stating whether it is or is not) then we would be wise to treat it with vastly more respect than a box ticking exercise in a management training weekend after an evening on the red. Words have meaning and value. And deeper than this they have an energetic quality that the current dictionaries fail to capture, but we know beyond doubt in the depths of our being – the ubiquitous innermost essence of us. We degrade words and ourselves when we use them absent of energetic integrity and energetic responsibility.
"To be energetically ignorant, which translates to one lacking energetic integrity and responsibility, is to Nature the equivalent of the most horrific forms of crime."Serge Benhayon Time, Space and all of us, Book 2 – Space, ed 1, p 171
People also have meaning and value. Treat them as too foolish to see the chasm between words and actions and you denigrate their awareness as you lose the quality of their full presence.
Staff may not outright resign when an organisation acts contra to its mission statement; however, they will see the hypocrisy between the stated aim and actual actions – and use the gap as covert permission for their own poor performance, withdrawal from life and giving up of genuine purpose and real care. When lies prevail, we all drop our standards, we all give up on the most basic levels of integrity. Even the possibility of there being Energetic Integrity and Energetic Responsibility (qualities that are innate to the One Soul to which we all return) fade beyond the reach of our injured and withdrawn senses. Disgust for the cynicism, hypocrisy and lying in business might in part explain the difficulty in getting people back to work in the post-lockdown world – although people must always account for their own apathy and decision to give up on living a full life.
The mission statement reveals that everything we do is important, and that we are either operating from energetic integrity and energetic responsibility – or we are not. This might sound harsh in a world populated with excuses and rationales, but it is fact. There are no little lies, or white lies or excusable lies. Our words and actions are aligned, or they are not. We exist in a realm of fiction, or we live richly in the world of truth.
Mission statement or no mission statement, the post-lockdown horror show of inhuman apathy and business upheaval is offering us all an opportunity to get our collective acts together. No one is going to fix this for us – it is up to each and every one of us to sort out the hypocrisies and fictions we have normalised by pretending they do not exist.
What if we read beyond the words of the fictional mission statement, read with our true eyes, eternally connected to our inner hearts, right to the core of what was driving every business we dealt with – including our own business? What then? What choices would we make? Would we ever be so readily fooled again? Would we still allow the lies (small or big) to flourish with such abandon? Would we finally stop giving our money to frauds and charlatans? Would we so quickly give up on energetic integrity, energetic responsibility and truth in life?
If we read from our essence, what then would change not only in the world of business, but the whole world and its currency of transacted energetic quality?