Measure it, or change it

Updated: Sep 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
The hill stations in the lower reaches of the Himalayas are a great place to have a business retreat if you want to spend a lot of money. Last month, the senior management team of an Indian organisation went on a retreat to create organisational values and next month they would create a mission statement.

While facilitating this three-day offsite, someone said integrity should be one of the values and I looked at my audience and asked if they can live this value. There was silence. Then we discussed what would integrity mean in the day-to-day business affairs for this organisation.

Enron, whose mission statement noted that the company prided itself on four key valuesrespect, integrity, communication and excellencetoday stands for many things which a company should never do. Among other things, all business dealings at Enron were supposed to be open and fair.

If you are not able to live up to the values and show the reflection of your mission statement in day-to-day business, it could set you up for failure. Sure, you write that quality customer service is a company goal, but you've created policies that reward your employees for wrapping up customer calls within three minutes. Employees can see the gulf between what you say versus what is valued on the job.

During the workshop, I had also showed my participants value statements of many Indian organisations as examples. They went through most of these with intense interest and started laughing when they read the value statements of a large Indian organisation.

Everyone in the group could understand that there is no connect between the values mentioned and the way the company does its business.

A mission statement and organisational values are your best tools for holding your company accountable to employees, customers and investors. I am sure we can do better than just saying, "We're going to produce high-quality goods and satisfy our customers, and we consider our employees our greatest asset."

A gentleman called Jeremy Bullmore once sat down and counted the words most frequently used by mission statements in American companies and wrote an article.

Here's his tally from the 301 statements: Service (230 times), growth (118), customers (211), environment (117), quality (194) profit (114), value (183), leader (104), employees (157) and best (102).

Many a time, creating organisational values and mission statements become creative writing exercises. You can play around with words like service, quality, value, etc, but how does it make you different from your competitors

How could this reflect the way we do business over here Many a time, the mission statements have been created a long time back and the organisation and the world have changed quite a bit since then.

If you find dissonance in your mission statement, get rid of it. That may require changing some of your company procedures. Don't leave yourself any wiggle room either. For example, if you write that your company will have "integrity", what does that mean Your mission statement should define what integrity means on the job, and how it will be measured in company performance. If you can't measure it, maybe you should change it.

The writer is managing director, Training Alternatives