Tirian Communications Specialist

Manager: “Wally, your status report is just a bunch of buzzwords strung together.”
Wally: “I’ve been giving you that same status report every week for eleven years. Five years ago you adopted it as our mission statement!”

You’ve heard the typical Mission Vision and Values (MVV) statements that can end up sounding like unoriginal jargon. Dilbert’s satiric business focused cartoons include a few classic comments on this problem – like the dialogue from one of his cartoons one as above. Dilbert has even come up with the concept of a “mission statement generator”: Click here to see a list of mission statements. Can you pick what is real and what is produced by the random generator? 

The MVV process can and should be a powerful process that has great positive impact on an organisation. Paul Spriggs shares how this can be done more effectively…

Defining a company’s MVV can too easily become a committee driven, “word-smithing” exercise of generic, motherhood statements. The company (brand) then misses the opportunity (the imperative) to carve out a distinctive reason for being that can galvanize the culture internally, attract talent, rally customers, and create a lasting competitive advantage.

There can be a number of pitfalls when crafting a VMM, including:

1. Thinking that defining the MVV’s is the end point.
While most companies recognize the need for MVV, many underestimate the importance of the process beyond defining them. Often just getting agreement or “buy-in” defining the MVV takes so much resource (and angst) that it can become the end point and measure of success. It’s assumed that the statements and words are self-explanatory and will be automatically adopted by all. However, they often remain static words on a page, rote learned by employees who may have different interpretations of the words, or miscomprehension without the context. The result is a missed opportunity for internal teams to adopt and amplify the MVV’s in their roles.

See comedian Darren McCubbin visiting an ordinary office in Australia to interview employees to find out what their vision is and where it lives. They all know where it is, but is it in another language

2. Costly creative third parties are limited in their potential to add value.
This problem is further exacerbated when costly third parties are tasked (briefed) to “bring to life” generic, motherhood statements. Without a (creative) brief that has translated the intent, context and meaning of the MVV’s, or the ability to assess creative ideas on this basis, the output often become underwhelming literal translations of the statements in internal and external communications, undermining the potential for the company (brand) to differentiate itself and generate the desired outcomes.

3. Lack of cultural sensitivity.
With many businesses competing on a global basis, these challenges become more complex when embarking on this endeavor across multiple countries and cultures. A centrally (head office) driven approach and global “roll-out”, without taking into account cross-cultural perspectives with these “values” based statements, also runs the risk of misinterpretation. This also applies to local Company’s, as they too have employees and audiences comprised of different cultures.

4. Unmet raised expectations undermine the company’s efforts
The original intent and raised expectations for MVV’s that will motivate & facilitate cultural change can “backfire”, as employees disengage (usually with cynicism) when this hugely costly and time consuming endeavor results in MVV’s that sound like every other company (brand), and are “rolled out” in a way that alienates, rather than motivates.

5. Acquisition & Mergers often fail due to differences in values and cultures.
Carefully managing the above issues is critical and even more complex when two companies merge.

The solution lies in an experienced communications expert who is able to “join the dots” between the company’s Mission, Vision and Values, and translate the insight, context and intent, to ensure everyone, internally & externally, across borders / cultures, accurately interpret the MVV’s. This lays the foundation for bringing them to life, with consistency, from all facets of the business, behaviors and communication forms.

It’s this translation of the MVV’s and the direction through the communications stages that creates the alchemy for the “multiplier effect” to work.

Where does your vision live?

Mission Possible: We can help you make relevant, or even create from scratch, and most importantly, translate and communicate- your Mission Vision Values. We’ve helped many teams and companies invent their future including: Alliance, Four Seasons Hotels, Cisco Systems, Baker & McKenzie, HP and Mercedes Benz.

Paul Spriggs is a recognized communications specialist, with over 20 years marketing, communications, and consulting experience in New York, Asia-Pacific and Sydney. Through his career Paul has been responsible building brands and businesses for leading companies such as; Kellogg (Asia-Pacific), Fallon (USA), Samsung, United Airlines (Asia-Pacific), Nestle, JWT & Unilever. His extensive international experience has enabled him to understand both the commercial and cultural issues in leading teams & building brands internationally.
In the next issue Paul will provide practical information on how to best translate the MVV at all levels.

See also Inventing The Future Through Story https://tirian.com/key-topic-suites/narrate/invent-the-future-deep-dive-lab-business-facilitation/

The mission statements above? Nos. 1 and 2 are Dilbert’s. No. 3 is the mission statement of the United Way, and no. 4 belonged to Enron!

Gaia Grant (PhD) is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Sydney Business School in the Discipline of Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, focusing on research into innovation paradoxes and ambidextrous leadership. Gaia is also a Director of Tirian Innovative Solutions, & the co-author (with Andrew Grant) of a number of books including ‘The Innovation Race’, and “Who Killed Creativity?”.

Andrew Grant is the Director of Tirian Innovative Solutions, and co-author (with Dr Gaia Grant) of a number of books including ‘The Innovation Race’, and “Who Killed Creativity?”.