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Author Topic: Do Visions and Missions work for you?  (Read 6708 times)

Paul Keith

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Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« on: February 06, 2011, 04:04:42 AM »
Similar theme to this topic

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Mission Statements

In my earlier posts I left the how to develop a mission statement out, because I decided that anyone who wanted to write a mission statement could find one of the many useful articles, or books on the subject. Doug, innowen, and myself have all at one time or another written on the subject. For the Middle Way, the mission statement is not use much time on a weekly basis. Once it is developed it is used to set up the week.

However, one of the first questions I received on my last post was this:

Quote
I have looked at many different planning systems and all of them have as a part of the system a "Mission Statement".

Do you really need a "Mission Statement"?

I can see setting goals. That gets a project done. But a "Mission Statement".

I as an individual have no mission. I just want to get my life in order and make sure I get things done that need to be done. Perhaps if I were setting up some sort of association, a small business whatever a mission statement might be important but it is a waste of time that can be occupied getting things done that need to be done and reviewing and editing it is doubly useless.

Or am I wrong?

The mission statement is a document which has to come from the heart. It can not be found outside of yourself. It has to come from within. The mission statement is a collection of what matters most to you. the following quote illustrates the frustration people have with mission statements when they fail to connect the person with their values, and beliefs in a meaningful way.

The next point from the discussion I want to comment on is:

Quote
I have just never understood the need for a mission statement and when I first started trying some of these organizational methods I tried to make one but it always seemed so silly and for the most part I would be copying the mission statements that were presented as examples.

This was my experience when I first started trying to develop a mission statement. I learned that I was so afraid of putting on paper what was most important to me. I felt that it just could not be a mission statement, because it was of a spiritual nature, not a day to day be successful nature. I caution anyone entering into the exercise of writing a mission statement that it is very personal, and example mission statements often derail the process. Also, remember that while you are committing ideas down to paper that it does not mean that your Mission Statement becomes set in stone. You are allowed to change it, in fact, that is why we revisit it in the Middle Way Method, so that you can decide for yourself whether or not you still want to be held up to those words or if you want to change them.

Quote
I Wear Many Hats and if I were to write a personal mission statement, it would have about 17 chapters, none of which tied in to each other.

Or, I guess I could spend a couple of hours searching my mind for some over-arcing principle to try to tie everything together. I could then do a typographic poster of my mission statement, hang it on the wall — and it wouldn't change whet I'm doing, not one bit.

I believe that our values transcend occupations. Who we are often defines what work we will do, but I can work in accounting, or flipping burgers, but my values of integrity, civility, and kindness transfer to the new job with me. I caution people to not let something as transitory as a job, occupation, or hobby define your values. The mission statement is a guide for choosing what you will do, and how you will accomplish it.

Vision Statements

Lastly I want to reiterate the value of the vision statement.

Please find your most comfortable place. Somewhere quiet, and private. If it helps play some music which helps you to relaxe, and maybe dim the lights. Now close your eyes, and ponder what would your life be like in two to five years if you were a complete individual. You have accomplished your present goals, you have learned all you set out to learn, you have developed the values in yourself you desire to posses. You are ready for bigger, and better things. How does your life look? How does it feel? Live it in your mind.

Immediately after doing that write a paragraph or two which bring those feelings back to you. This is your vision, keep it close to your mind. When you feel discouaged recite it to yourself. It has the power to pull you up, and to help you keep going.

I started out writing, because I hoped that in writing I would make a difference to someone, help someone solve a problem, or find a way to be a little better off. I am very grateful to the many people who have taken the time over the last few months to read, and share back thoughts about the Middle Way Method, and the system I created for it. I look forward to hearing about your successes, and being able to answer anymore questions you may have. If you have questions please feel free to contact me. I hope that this series gives everyone something to think about. I can be contacted through D*I*Y Planner's contact form, or through the website listed in my profile. When you e-mail me about the Middle Way method, please include the term Middle Way as part of the subject, so I can respond quickly to your message.

rjbull

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2011, 10:10:22 AM »
In my experience, mission statements are an illiterate mish-mash of management buzzwords.  In richly-deserved lampoon, much like this:

Quote
Mission statement generator© -  it's vertical, tracing and almost perfect

Do you feel left out because your business does not have a mission statement? Do other Executive Directors laugh at you because you don't have a corporate vision?

Writing a mission statements is a tricky business, but now help is at hand with the ISMS Mission Statement Generator©.

The ISMS Mission Statement Generator©  has been has been described on the Internet as: Dual-headed, top-down and almost spectral.

Example:
Quote
To incubate plug-and-play deliverables with maximum effect for the benefit of our patrons and other private parternships

« Last Edit: February 06, 2011, 10:13:23 AM by rjbull »

Paul Keith

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2011, 01:09:46 PM »
Heh, I feel the same but I admit in my personal notes I do have stuff written like that but I don't consider them missions and visions, just words for brainstorming.

There's a whole sect of motivational productivity people though and that's why I made this topic. It's not like the intentions of the ideas aren't bad but ehh... (Plus the example you wrote doesn't make sense to me. Really sounds like something written by a manager who don't even know what the heck he is managing)

app103

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2011, 04:08:53 PM »
I kind of see the idea of a personal mission statement as being what do you see as your purpose in life? Like Paul said, it has nothing to do with your current tasks on your todo list, your occupation, job, or what your goals are.

For me, that would be:

My purpose in life is to help people because helping people makes me happy.

Now, see, that has nothing to do with any specific occupation or job, but defining it can help me set goals, seek an occupation in line with it, and fulfill in my heart what I feel is my destiny. Knowing this, I won't seek a job or spouse that isolates me and prevents me from interacting with people I can help and makes it easier to ensure I stay away from and don't do things contrary to it.

And Paul is right, you can't define this unless you really look deep inside yourself and discover who you are.


I tend to avoid Vision Statements or long term life goals, and I definitely won't put them in writing. I have learned the hard way that doing so leads me down the path to serious depression, because my life rarely ever goes in the direction that I have planned, and looking back and seeing where I had hoped to be by now and where I actually am, makes me feel like a worthless failure. I'd rather not do that because it tends to spiral out of control and can be quite dangerous to my mental health. (this was a big contributor to my GTD related breakdown a few years ago) I can't look forward without looking back, and looking back makes me revisit things I'd rather forget and plans I made that never came to be.

It has taken me quite awhile to come to terms with the idea that it is ok to live life without a master plan, long term goals, or a big picture view of things. Some people are best going with the flow and enjoying the adventure. Some of us are a different type of traveler, better suited to just going wherever the road takes us, rather than having a destination in mind, using maps, planning routes, and having a travel itinerary.

I'll wonder about it, maybe dream a little, but I'll always deliberately leave it very fuzzy. I am better off that way. It helps me get through today with my sanity intact.

40hz

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2011, 06:35:37 PM »
I think they have a purpose as long as they remain internal documents.

Unfortunately, many businesses and individuals make the mistake of seeing them as part of their marketing plan.

In my experience, most clients could care less about your mission or your vision. They prefer to focus on the quality of your service and products, your reputation, and how conscientiously you handle their account on a day to day basis.

I'm a fairly introspective and focused individual, so I never felt a compelling need to sit down and work out "on paper" who I am, what I'm about, or where I'm going. I've always been clear on that from a fairly young age. Same with my business. I've always been very clear about what it is we do, and what we need to do in order to accomplish it. And fortunately, I've been successful in communicating it to the people I work with. I don't use the term employee or customer since I feel it creates an unnecessary distinction between the people I work with. Some people I pay. Some people pay me. Both should expect to get the absolute best our company is capable of delivering.  

And... I'm gonna stop there.

This is starting to sound dangerously close to a vision or a mission statement , isn't it?  ;D

« Last Edit: February 06, 2011, 10:17:30 PM by 40hz »

IainB

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2011, 09:40:33 PM »
Quote
Do Visions and Missions work for you?
This is a very interesting Q. Here is a response from my own experience.

I think it would be correct to say that the Q is built on an a priori implicit assumption that visions/missions are necessarily something that we should be doing, and thus asks how we get along with them.

Vision and mission statements are not the same things (but they could be, I suppose, depending on how you defined them). They are simply theoretical tools for planning, and they are both artificial and imaginary concepts.

There are two main areas in life where I have used vision/mission statements:
(a) Personal life-planning
(b) Corporate planning

Personal life-planning:
  • In the mid-'80s, I read an interesting book (title now forgotten) on personal life-planning, and what got my attention was the apparent truth of the statement that, even if I only spent (say) 8 hours or so on working through my personal life goals and plans, it could be more time than I or any individual might otherwise ever spend on thinking constructively and in a structured way about life-planning. The question was asked in the book: Surely one's life was worth this small effort?
  • I thought it was probably worth it, and so I set about laboriously pulling together a paper-based life plan for myself and my family. I later transferred this to a Lotus Agenda database (this is now obsolete technology), and that enabled my life-planning to become a whole lot more relevant to everything I did (and vice versa). [As far as I am aware, you could not do this today - or get anywhere near it - on any software, though I have looked and looked.]
  • This exercise in life-planning was - for me at any rate - useful. It helped me to understand how I could organise my life a little differently to improve the chances of achieving some medium and longer-term goals.
  • Then, within the constraints of Pareto's Law,  it was up to me to actually achieve those goals, if I felt sufficiently committed to achieving them.

Corporate Planning:
  • In the '90s, I was taught to use a very structured approach to perfecting clear and concise vision and mission statements. These were used as the foundation-stones for drawing up sophisticated and rigorous marketing plans.
  • This was whilst I was employed at a leading IT services corporation called "EDS". EDS later slipped into a progressive loss-making state and it is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of HP and renamed as a division called HP Services). The definition of vision/mission statements was part of EDS' strategic marketing planning methodology called "VBM" (Value-Based Marketing), originally developed by and acquired from the Holden Consulting Corporation.
  • The VBM methodology was (is) superb, and I still put it into use today where it seems relevant for client work. However, I have found that, in the main, whilst you might have the most brilliant marketing plan, it is just a plan, and if people will not "buy in" to it (i.e., are not committed to it), or cannot understand it, then they will inevitably help to screw the thing up on the execution/implementation of that plan (i.e., it will not be achieved).
  • Evidence of this is probably in the decline of EDS' share price to the level that HP could buy them up. EDS had some brilliant marketing plans for re-inventing themselves and for achieving global leadership in their chosen markets, but were unable to successfully execute them. If they had been so able, then they could probably have continued to be world leaders (as they were at one stage) and with a very high market share price.
  • I observed what I thought was the start of the EDS decline and left EDS in 1996. At that time, it seemed depressingly clear to me that EDS management were likely to unwittingly ensure that most of EDS' corporate plans would be doomed to failure. The seeds of this had already been planted. In retrospect, I was right, but I take no pleasure from this. I though EDS was a great company, with a bright future potential.

So, that describes how visions/missions have worked for me, in my experience.
I think the most salient points that we need to remember about vision/mission statements are:
  • They are, at most, simply theoretical tools/aids for thinking about planning.
  • They are both artificial and imaginary concepts.
  • They help in planning, which is about imagining a desirable future state and how you might be able to get there.

That's from my direct my experience, and I have learned from that and from history that they can be useful as tools for greater understanding of one's personal life, but they have had a mixed success in business planning, and, under some circumstances they can become a dangerous, double-edged sword.
Scott Adams wrote a while back in the Dilbert blog something to the effect that, when CEOs come out with a corporate vision, they are expecting or asking the Board and employees to believe in and "buy in" to (commit to) the CEO's imagined future state - which is a fantasy or a hallucination. This is irrational by definition, as fantasies are not based on fact or reason.

This might be acceptable, if not of vital necessity, in religions (belief in some kind of imaginary god or super-being), but it could be doubtful in business and politics, no matter how inspiring it may seem, and it can be downright lethal when incorporated into strong religio-political ideologies used for the control of humankind. A classic example of just how dangerous and deadly such a vision could become would be Hitler's Fascist vision for the purity of the dominant Aryan race, cleansed of Jews especially (and not forgetting some other minority groups). This particular vision, apparently "bought into" by the German people as a nation, gave us the legacy of the genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust in WW2.

Of course, through ignorance and for fear of damaging their employment status or even their survival, most employees/people will probably tend to take the survival track and give supporting lip-service to belief in such of the CEO's fantasies regardless of how stupid they may seem (and I have seen some very stupid vision and mission statements and their associated slogans), whilst covertly not committing to them, and thus sticking with their own, personally held and more pragmatic beliefs.
This is how ignorance, and especially irrational fear, can diminish us and our sense of personal freedom, so that we can be controlled and even (QED in Nazi Germany's case) made sub-human. The courtiers would not tell the Emperor the truth about his new clothes, for fear of looking ridiculous (supposing they were real clothes after all, but you were the only ones who couldn't see them?), or for fear of being thrown out of court for telling the truth. Though some of Hitler's deputies could not see that they had actually done anything wrong, when accused of crimes against humanity, they did not dare to argue with their leaders and "I vas only obeying orders." became an almost classic defence at the Nuremberg trials.

Paul Keith

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2011, 09:55:59 AM »
Quote from: 40hz
In my experience, most clients could care less about your mission or your vision. They prefer to focus on the quality of your service and products, your reputation, and how conscientiously you handle their account on a day to day basis.

Of course often times, businesses without visions and missions also have questionable quality and consistency in their products.

I find marketing very funny that way sometimes. Shove stuff you should be following as a culture internally back to customers where they don't care and then shove stuff your customers need back to your staff and making the rare A to the Q&A a hell of a mess.

Quote from: IainB
The VBM methodology was (is) superb, and I still put it into use today where it seems relevant for client work. However, I have found that, in the main, whilst you might have the most brilliant marketing plan, it is just a plan, and if people will not "buy in" to it (i.e., are not committed to it), or cannot understand it, then they will inevitably help to screw the thing up on the execution/implementation of that plan (i.e., it will not be achieved).

Could the reason people don't buy into it is due to the plan being a waterfall method? Not trying to sound snarky but as a non-programmer who just read articles explaining why agile methods and start-up style tactics work really well in reality, I often come to the conclusion that business plans are mostly useless except for business pitch, quality control, quality presentation and exit strategy.

I'm not really sure how to link this to visions and missions though (and it seems off-topic to Getting Organized) but your experiences kind of made me want to inquire about this situation.

Quote
This might be acceptable, if not of vital necessity, in religions (belief in some kind of imaginary god or super-being), but it could be doubtful in business and politics, no matter how inspiring it may seem, and it can be downright lethal when incorporated into strong religio-political ideologies used for the control of humankind. A classic example of just how dangerous and deadly such a vision could become would be Hitler's Fascist vision for the purity of the dominant Aryan race, cleansed of Jews especially (and not forgetting some other minority groups). This particular vision, apparently "bought into" by the German people as a nation, gave us the legacy of the genocide of an estimated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust in WW2.

What's your take on the Google and Apple type of cultures? If I'm not mistaken these cultures are even much more stronger within the company than they are to their consumers.

Microsoft too and Facebook has a strong culture as well as most of Silicon Valley but nothing reads as grand as "do no evil" and "privacy except when we're data mining your privacy".

Extra question:

This discussion has made me consider another side-thought:

We often think of businesses or self-help theories when thinking of missions and visions but how do you guys see this concept's efficiency when leaning towards academics?

Externally businesses and personal lives advises aim to hold missions and visions to "improve productivity" but this seems opposite in universities especially business school cultures in that the vision is not to improve productivity but to market a learning system in which students must abide by said protocol and in that culture, we could say the students are being more productive through sheerly being exposed to systems they may be ignorant of acquiring - but do the missions and visions of the school add to that learning productivity or are they merely learning sprinkles where the school connections/courses/facilities/staff are the ones truly adding to the student's productivity by virtue of adding to their knowledge and experience?

IainB

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2011, 05:05:32 AM »
@Paul Keith:
Just my personal views, for what they are worth:

Marketing seems to be taught as some kind of a creative art form nowadays, whereas I was taught it as being a relatively scientific (numbers-based) and methodical approach, using all sorts of applied human psychology, and to be executed with almost military precision. It was something that drove the business. I am not surprised that you say:
Quote
"I find marketing very funny that way sometimes."
From experience, the real and extremely well-thought-out business plans of most large corporations are often militaristic, mind-blowingly calculating and precise, highly confidential, shrouded in secrecy and rarely published. So, a great deal (if not most) of the marketing that we are able to see and that we are exposed to nowadays is just pap. Most of it seems to hinge around the use of BS and vague or at best ambiguous terminology to label ill-defined things in a way that sweet-talks us into disabling our critical faculties in support of the corporate objectives for profit.

Quote
"What's your take on the Google and Apple type of cultures?"
I expect they are both as bad as each other, in their own ways.
Look at the use of the term "corporate culture". What the heck is that? You could probably define it umpteen different ways, it's so ambiguous. I don't know really what it is, and neither do you, but if the CEO says that the "corporate culture" includes the phrase "Do no evil", then (as employees) we're highly unlikely to ask for a definition of "corporate culture" or argue the toss - no matter how stupid or nebulous it might all sound. So, it sounds just great to us, doesn't it? Of course it does. How could it be bad? The Emperor has some super clothes on.

One of the things that that super, high-sounding phrase ("Do no evil") does is move the focus away from its impossibility in light of the harsh reality that corporations are psychopathic legal persons licensed to operate freely in society (QED the documentary, The Corporation). Any human person would be locked up in a lunatic asylum if they were psychopathic - for our protection - but not so corporations. Such corporations can do and generally will do whatever they can get away with in order to make a profit - for example, leaving a huge footprint on the environment, or poisoning thousands of people with toxic effluent or toxic working conditions. These are simply "externalities" for society to pick up and sort out at society's cost. The one thing that corporations must do by law - they are programmed to do - is make a profit for shareholders (maximise shareholder value). All else is subordinate to this. "Do no evil"? Yeah, right, and pigs have wings.

You ask:
Quote
"Could the reason people don't buy into it is due to the plan being a waterfall method?"
It might be, but I doubt it. I'd still say as above, it is probably because they:
Quote
"are not committed to it, or cannot understand it"
Anyway, why should they buy into it in the first place - especially if it seems stupid/irrational, etc. - and what mandates that you must "buy-in" to another person's fantasy or their arbitrary system of rules? Only fear.
Only in the military must you obey orders without question. The cessation of thinking is decidedly an asset then. History is littered with examples of how generals have stupidly wasted thousands of soldiers' lives in war for no military gain whatsoever. Like lambs to the slaughter.

You talk about:
Quote
"this concept's efficiency when leaning towards academics"
This is all too vague for me, and I can't see that "efficiency" and "academia" are necessarily directly related anyway, and certainly not to the "quality of output".
For example, why put all those poor students through the same sausage-machine process and syllabus (e.g., Engineering), hoping to make "Leaders" of them, when Pareto's Law indicates that only 20% of them will be capable of becoming (can possibly be) 1st Class Thinkers and Leaders and the rest will be B students or less? Surely it would be more efficient to weed out the Bs at the outset, and put them through something more suited to their capabilities where they could be productive contributors to society instead of frustrated would-be leaders not realising their own limitations and let loose to screw things up? Wouldn't that be a more effective use of human talent and resources?

These are hypothetical questions, but they can stimulate thought and debate.

Another example: Deming mentioned how he had been invited to sit in on a lecture at a leading US Business School, where MBA students were being taught about MBO (Management By Objectives). A lot of the students had been sent over from China to learn about Western business management methods. He said what a waste it was, that these Chinese students, who otherwise would have had their thinking uncluttered by such things, would now go back to China with these outdated ideas and stifle the Chinese economy with them just as they had been and were being used to stifle the US economy.
You see, of Deming's 14-point philosophy, one of the points was heretical - to abandon the use of MBO. MBO is a theoretical construct, not a law, but the way it is taught, you have to believe in it to get your grades. This point of Deming's was a heretical point because, not only did it run contrary to conventional wisdom - the conventional wisdom of MBO - but also it slaughtered a sacred cow - it disproved the theory of MBO.

Even adults, it seems, may sometimes need to continue to believe in fairies, or the Emperor's new clothes. Heaven's Gate could not have happened if things were otherwise. Why this is, and why skepticism seems to lie dormant - often when it is most needed - is a mystery to me.

Paul Keith

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2011, 08:21:18 AM »
Thanks IainB, I got most of that except for Heaven's Gate? What is it?

Over here marketing is still taught that way and I think it's just easier to sell it as creative BS because of more modern metrics and easier ways to just hype it and slick it up and fans will eat it while at the same time turning the products' fans into covert multilevel marketers. (That said I have no degree so I often don't know the specific words and I often end up doing mostly the same and trying to come up with modified terms like covert MLMers)

IainB

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2011, 09:32:53 AM »

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IainB

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2011, 03:43:11 AM »
Thanks for the Wikipedia link app103.
There's quite a lot more that turns up if you just google "Heaven's Gate".

IainB

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2011, 04:38:44 AM »
I happened to be browsing my archives and I came across these EDS PowerPoint images from 1996. This reminded me that, despite its good points as an organisation (and it had many good points), there were some very bad ones.

EDS Leadership model:

EDS Performance Appraisal Process 01c.jpgDo Visions and Missions work for you?

As if that wasn't enough BS on its own, there was more - e.g., a Performance Appraisal Process that was cruelly linked to it: (more BS - as a manger, I could see that the performance appraisal and any pay increase were completely unrelated to the model. It was, as Deming said, "A lottery".)

EDS Leadership model 02.jpg


There's a LinkedIn EDS alumni group, and if you go take a look at that, you will see a discussion about the almost unending stream of ridiculous hype and meaningless BS that EDS subjected its employees to. They had to take it and seem to believe in it, otherwise they were clearly not of "executive calibre" (or whatever), and of course, some of the managers and staff actually seemed to believe in the BS. The Emperor had lovely new clothes.

EDS had invented "Death by PowerPoint" in those days too. I remember some of my clients telling me privately that they used to dread having to sit through a presentation by EDS. It was as though nobody in EDS had the intellectual capability or a sufficiently good grasp of written English to be able to communicate without BS and pictures, so it was all dumbed-down to the reading age of a 14-year old, slides all having amusing cartoons. Of course, there were some very smart people employed at EDS, but I think most of them managed to keep away from making these sorts of presentations. It did make you wonder though, in what low regard the clients were held, that EDS salespeople felt that it was OK to subject them to such mediocrity.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2014, 04:53:22 PM by IainB, Reason: Replaced ED Performance Appraisal image with one with slightly larger borders (for greater clarity). »

Paul Keith

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2011, 05:19:27 AM »
Thanks for this IainB. What's scary about this is this is like a carbon copy of "the" business plan that I know of.

Like literally the shape or the cycle or the sizzle may switch around a bit but point for point it's scarily: business planning/strategic goals and then immediately ongoing feedback and appraisal or staff training and there's really no "cheat" route of sorts on how to bypass a bad appraiser.

If there's one thing that is at least more honest in your model is that at least reward and recognition is a dead end zone.

IainB

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2013, 02:59:07 AM »
Thought I'd revive this thread with an interesting (and relevant) blog post by the Dilbert creator, Scott Adams:
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Management/Success/Leadership: Mostly Bullshit
Mar 12, 2013

Sometimes I think the field of management/success/leadership is nothing more than a confusion of correlation for causation. For example, I blogged recently that "passion" isn't so much a cause of success as a result of success, and it grows as the success grows. Success can make anyone passionate about what they are doing. When the experts say we need passion to be successful, that's mostly bullshit. What you need is energy, talent, hard work, a reasonable plan, and lots of luck.

Company culture is another area that I think the experts get backwards. The common belief is that you need a good company culture to create success. But isn't it more likely that companies with awesome employees get both a good culture and success at the same time? A good corporate culture is a byproduct of doing everything right; it's not the cause of success as much as the outcome. Success improves culture more than a good culture can cause success.

And how about that charisma thing? That's important, right? Everyone says so. Look at Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison. Those guys have plenty of charisma so it must be important to success, we assume. But let me tell you what causes charisma: success.

I'm in a unique position to judge the success=charisma hypothesis because I slip in and out of famousness all day long. Cartoonists aren't normally recognized, and when I walk into a room as a "normal" I exhibit no charisma whatsoever. I might even be absorbing some charisma that is already in the atmosphere. But when I enter a room at an event where people are expecting me in my capacity as a semi-famous cartoonist, suddenly I appear to have some charisma. I feel like Moses in a room full of water. Trust me when I say that if Steve Jobs had not been successful so young, he'd be known as the lying asshole who needs a shower, not the guy with the reality distortion field. Charisma is bullshit.

Today I was reading an expert's opinion that companies get better results when managers learn to avoid micromanaging employees. But how do we know those non-micromanaging managers get better results? Wouldn't it also be true that wherever you have the most highly capable employees - the ones most likely to create success - you have a boss who knows he can back off the micromanaging? One would expect more micromanaging in companies with untalented employees. So how do you know what causes what?

Consider the thousands of different books on management/success/leadership. If any of this were real science, all managers would learn the same half-dozen secrets to success and go on to great things. The reality of the business world is more like infinite monkeys with typewriters. Sooner or later a monkey with an ass pimple will type something that makes sense and every management expert in the world will attribute the success to the ass pimple.

How about the idea that every hourly wage slave should "act like an entrepreneur"?  How do you think that would play out with Apple's 50,000 employees? The unsexy reality is that everyone in the company can't be creative risk-takers. Someone has to actually work. My guess is that Apple would fall apart if more than 5% of its employees acted like entrepreneurs. And maybe the tipping point is only 2%. Entrepreneurs are disruptive, rule-breaking risk-takers. A little bit of that goes a long way.

I first noticed the questionable claims of management experts back in the nineties, when it was fashionable to explain a company's success by its generous employee benefits. The quaint idea of the time was that treating employees like kings and queens would free their creative energies to create massive profits. The boring reality is that companies that are successful have the resources to be generous to employees and so they do. The best way a CEO can justify an obscene pay package is by treating employees generously. To put this in another way, have you ever seen a corporate turnaround that was caused primarily by improving employee benefits?

The fields of management/success/leadership are a lot like the finance industry in the sense that much of it is based on confusing correlation and chance with causation. We humans like to feel as if we understand and control our environments. We don't like to think of ourselves as helpless leaves blowing in the wind of chance. So we clutch at any ridiculous explanation of how things work.

My view is that success happens when you have a coincidence of talent, resources, and timing. One can explain the existence of successful serial entrepreneurs by the fact that once successful they gain resources, credibility, extra talent, contacts, and the opportunity to live someplace such as Silicon Valley where opportunities fall out of trees.  You would expect that group of people to get lucky more often than someone just starting out.

Dilbert came to fame in the nineties when the working world was experiencing an unprecedented "bubble" of management bullshit. Every time a new business book became a best seller, middle managers across the globe scurried to buy a copy and started spewing its jargon. Eventually the sale of business books dropped off when, I assume, people realized there couldn't really be 10,000 different sure-fire formulas for success.

But lately I've been feeling another bullshit bubble forming in the world. And I don't mean only the financial markets, which are sketchy for lots of reasons. It's just a feeling, but it seems to me that the management/success/leadership bullshit bubble is once again reaching full inflation.

Are you feeling the bubble too, or is it just me?

TaoPhoenix

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2013, 05:57:50 AM »
Hmm, I think I disagree with almost half that post, but I think I have to leave that one alone and skip the equally long line-by-line discussion!


40hz

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Re: Do Visions and Missions work for you?
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2013, 06:59:36 AM »
Regarding success as relates to vision, I have yet to see a company which experienced early success that hasn't followed this timeline when writing it's "official" history:

Year   Official story
-----   -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  1      "We're happy to say we've been very fortunate..."

  2      "We have worked hard, and have also been fortunate..."

  3      "With hard work, a sound business plan, plus a little luck..."

  4      "Sure there was some luck involved, but we also had a plan - and worked it..."

  5      "WTF do you mean luck? Luck had nothing to do with it. This was all
           meticulously planned and executed from the get go..."

  6      "We have always had a clear mission, solid planning, and a set of core values..."

  7      "Long before this company first opened its doors, Our Founder had a vision..."

 ;) ;D


Humans sooooo need their 'divine' revelations, superheros and messiahs don't they? Even when it comes to something as mundane as business. :-\