I can’t do it anymore: the Vision/Mission statement

Vision statements, mission statements, and the 5-step problem-solving model. I. Just. Can’t. I also wince every time I hear someone say “360-degree review,” but that’s another post.

For one thing, I never could make sense of the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement. I remember precious life minutes spent trying to grok the difference as a meeting participant. I remember hours spent coming up with limp pieces of horrifying corpo-prose that – best case – we promptly forgot, or – worst case – got printed on our business cards.

Just say no to vision/mission statements. I’m not saying don’t have a way to describe, bound and focus what you’re doing that lights you up – not saying that at all. I’m saying keep it short, sweet and punchy. More like a mantra. “Make money and have fun” is Ben and Jerry’s. “The lowest-cost airline” is Southwest Airlines’s. See? Provides on-the-ground, practical guidance, and puts wind under my wings. Short, pithy, easy to remember and use in daily decision-making.

I advocate the mantra on the organizational, departmental team and individual levels. Not that I need to advocate them. Mantras are. I bet you’re using one right now. I once worked at an ad agency where our spoken mantra was : “It’s not brain surgery.” This helped us remember both to lighten up and to take risks.

A client’s current mantra is: “Get home on time.” It guides his every move, and it’s changing his life.

My mantra is: Let’s make it easier. I want to make things easier for my clients. I want to do what works and toss what doesn’t. I live for the hot-knife-through-butter moment, when what looked impossible becomes actual. It’s a visible, visceral thing: people light up and the world gets brighter when we get to easy. That mantra is what keeps my work endlessly fascinating. challenging and fun. That mantra is why I had to come clean about vision/mission statements.

Next week: My allergic reaction to the problem-solving model and what I do instead.

Overly-complicated, convoluted ideas and plans get shelved and forgotten; simple mantras focus and re-energize. Mantras are self-renewing. I’ll bet you have a mantra where you work. What is it?

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