We’re all in it. Better (or not) because of it. Forever it (thanks, Rick Astley). Unstoppable Together (that’s mine).
The latter represented a small but significant change we made to our company values at SmartPA this month. The idea that we collaborate, not just internally, but with our customers. The concept that we have each other’s backs has never been more essential in these challenging times.
It was not enough that we strived to be Unstoppable. There’s a greater joy and satisfaction when we accomplish it in unison which is why we opted to update and upgrade our values. It renews our purpose heading into 2021 with one extra powerful word.
But why? Missions. Values. Visions. Objectives. Grand, corporate pronouncements that emerged out of the United States in the 1980s as a means to bind organisations together and boldly announce that greatness to the world.
Saying all the right things, of course. ‘Being great for our customers’. ‘Our people matter’. ‘Doing brilliant things’. To deploy a popular phrase… Duh?!? All concepts straight out of the Random Statement Generator Machine. Meaningless, frequently.
Look at American energy company Enron, widely regarded as the scene of the greatest corporate scandal of all-time. Their mission statement declared: We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves… That they would have wanted to have others fabricate their accounts to the same breath-taking degree is a little doubtful. Then again, it takes all sorts.
And yet, done right, cultivating visions and values which establish a true clarity of purpose have never been more vital. At a time when our corporate families have been scattered to the winds and become a virtual networks rather than collectives in tight proximity, a gel that binds everyone together ‘ no matter where they are ‘ has a genuine benefit.
To set benchmarks. To ensure our people never feel alone, even when working in their pyjamas from the kitchen table. And to remind ourselves ‘ all of us ‘ what we are striving for even as the world around us spins on its heels.
We have all been compelled to react and re-jig in 2020. To change, or die, with speed a priority. To reinvent our offices and our offerings to cope with a 180-degree rotation of consumer habits and business structures. To strive for efficiencies with balance sheets under assault and long-term projections based on algorithms from a lifetime ago.
On our office wall, our ‘Thought of the Week’ ‘ usually a famous quotation – went without an update for an extended spell. The sage words of Ferris Bueller never age though. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
That goes for our own big pictures too. It’s oh-so-easy to leap from one management decision to the next, whether acutely-planned or fire-fighting, without pausing to refer back to our stated principles. It’s good to be nimble, even essential in this quick-paced, cyber-driven era. But if we are doomed to a myopia of the short-term that blinds us to the purpose that is supposed to our guiding light, then we can all be left in the dark.
A great mission statement is a reminder of where we come from but also where we are going. Look at Amazon, the mother of all unicorns and a fantasy made real. It aspires
to continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover and buy anything, and empower businesses and content creators to maximise their success. We aim to be Earth’s most customer centric company.
It pulls off the neat trick of talking with confidence to its external audience but also within its walls. Urging its people to seek constant improvement. Promising its customers the world ‘ and then (literally) delivering. We can’t all be Jeff Bezos. And even though we might lament his self-enrichment at the expense of our friendly local supplier, the success of his mission is undeniable.
As with the array of products in Amazon’s warehouses, the key with visions and values is not to let them sit unloved on the shelf for too long. The occasional update does no harm. Questioning whether they remain fully fit for purpose, resonant with everyone from our executive to our front line, and reflective of our business or structure as it sits today.
But if we properly live and breathe our mission and our big picture, it is an oxygen that lets us exhale in moments of stress and gets us all safely through good times and bad. Together.