By Stefan Georgi
A central tenet of my new course on business ethics is that companies need to elucidate their values in order to succeed. One great way to do this is to clarify your principles through the development of a mission statement. An effective mission statement can do wonders for your company. Ideally, it should be short, elegant, and complete. It should encapsulate your core values and help stakeholders understand exactly what it is your company stands for.
Over the course of studying numerous businesses, I’ve begun to realize that some companies really “get” mission statements while others struggle. In light of this, I’ve decided to have a little fun, and to highlight some of the best, and worst corporate mission statements out there.
Presenting: The 1st Annual Business Ethics Review Mission Statement Awards.
Award: Most Improved Mission Statement
This one takes some explaining….
In a 2007 interview with Adam Lashinsky of Fortune, Yahoo’s then CEO Terry Semel was asked what Yahoo’s motto was. His response:
“I don’t know that we have a motto. Well, the mission of the company is, Deliver great value to our consumers and, basically, value them.”
Basically value them. That sounds pretty good, though just “valuing” them would probably work too.
In fact, it seems like Yahoo’s mission statement changes with the seasons. I guess if your company averaged a new CEO every two years though, you’d have trouble figuring out which values to follow too.
Regardless, Yahoo’s current mission statement is definitely an improvement over 2007’s. The most recent one reads:
Yahoo! creates deeply personal digital experiences that keep more than half a billion people connected to what matters most to them, across devices and around the globe. That’s how we deliver your world, your way. And Yahoo!’s unique combination of Science + Art + Scale connects advertisers to the consumers who build their businesses.
With a new CEO taking the helm this month, it’ll be interesting to see if this is the statement that finally sticks.
Award: Most Amazingly Ambiguous Mission Statement, Even A Decade Later
Respect, Integrity, Communication and Excellence.
Even though it has been over a decade since Enron filed for bankruptcy, I’m still amazed by their mission statement. It’s looks like the kind of mission statement that was written by a bunch of guys who didn’t really want to write mission statement. It’s as if they just picked four words that sounded “corporate-ish” piled them together, and then went went back to destroying people’s pension funds.
Award: Most Self-Promoting Mission Statement
Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.
Apple’s mission statement is perhaps most remarkable for its shameless self-promotion. Twelve out of the fifty-eight words in the tech giant’s credo are either Apple products or Apple services. In other words, 21% of Apple’s Mission Statement is an advertisement. No wonder they’re America’s most valuable company.
Award: Most Hard to Find Mission Statement
Winner: Best Buy
It’s not exactly fair to give this award to Best Buy as there are a lot of large companies out there with hard to find mission statements. Still, I spent nearly twenty minutes on their website, and I couldn’t find anything about their mission or values. I did find (very easily) a link to their executive bios. Not that there’s anything wrong with telling people about your leadership. It just might be more effective if you also explained in what direction it was that they were leading.
Award: Best Mission Statement
Our mission is to make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional guest experience by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise.
To support our mission, we are guided by our commitments to great value, the community, diversity and the environment.
Target gets it. Their mission statement is clear, concise, and to the point. They identify their core values, and they clearly state their ambitions. They slip in a little bit of branding, but they don’t go overboard. They also mention actionable steps that can help them reach their goals.
Well that wraps up the first ever Business Ethics Review Mission Statement Awards. For a more serious discussion about how to write an effective mission statement, and how doing so can greatly increase your bottom line, check out my course If They Trust You, They’ll Pay You: The 9 Profit Boosting Principles of Business Ethics.