Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How the Dreaded Mission Statement
Doesn't Have to be Study in Banality

Fast Company offers a nice disquisition on a topic that occasionally comes up in my web copywriting duties--helping distill an organization's essence into a mission statement. The vast majority of these statements are dreary exercises in banal corporate-speak. But it doesn't have to be that way. As FC puts it: "Mission statements don't have to be dumb. In fact, they can be very valuable, if they articulate real targets. The first thing I'd do is forget the exact words and remember the reason for a statement in the first place. In 2006, Wilson Learning surveyed 25,000 employees from the finance and tech industries. Respondents said they wanted a leader who could 'convey clearly what the work unit is trying to do.' The same applies to mission statements, which set the tone. Employees, vendors, and clients don't get stoked by fuzzy mission statements. They will line up behind concrete goals." Thoughts?


At 8:07 PM, Anonymous curious said...

Do you have a mission statement for your life? I suppose it is too personal a question, but your writing is so powerful that if it is something you have thought of or wish to share, I thought it might be dazzling. It is interesting to watch you mature as a writer, as a teacher, and piece by piece, just as a person.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Your outlandish flattery notwithstanding, I do not happen to have a personal mission statement. I do, however, have a handful of personal mottoes, or guiding principles, which operate in much the same fashion. One of them, for instance, is "collaborate with genius." I've found that to be tremendously effective when put into practice. Another is "follow storytelling down every possible path," which often ends up taking you back to the other one about collaboration.

Others are more in the way of borrowed maxims/sayings/phrases from a few admired gurus and personal mentors, everyone from William Zinsser ("change is a tonic") to Roldo Bartimole (too many to name), the writer James Salter (whose guiding quote, found at the top of the page, has graced this blog since the day it was launched) and even former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, who memorably observed that "I never learn anything when I'm talking, only when I'm listening."

Now that I've shared some of mine, I'd love to hear from others about theirs.

At 9:21 PM, Anonymous curious said...

Some sparkling gems to ponder there. Thank you for your thoughtful response!


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