Monday, June 23, 2008

The Mission Statement

Vision Statements and Mission Statements have been so abused and misused over the last two decades that talking about them can invoke instant invocations of Dilbert cartoons.

I’ve worked at companies that have used them successfully (Acuson - Cybersource), used them poorly (Blue Martini) or had them not at all (CollabNet). I felt the effects were dramatic on day to day performance. At Cybersource the Mission Statement was clear: One billion billable transactions by 2008. At the time I joined it was also a BHAG goal. First no one was really tracking how many transaction we were doing, and when I figured out how to do that, we had a huge company party to celebrate our first month with 1 million.

But that goal affected every choice we made and every action we took. When a course of action was in front of us the question was always, “Will this help us get to one billion transactions.”? If the answer was yes, we did it, if no, we did not. Conflicts did come up, often the choice was “which of these two things helps us get to our goal better?” The point was we always had a guiding Mission we were trying to get to and that framed the conversations we had, our interactions with each other, and the choices we made.

I left Cybersource in January of 2000. I thought the company was loosing direction. It turned out I was wrong, it did loose focus for a little while, but the founder stepped back in when the dot com bust came, and refocused the company back on its Mission. Today Cybersource’s market cap is 1.2 billion dollars, and they made that one billion transaction goal.

When companies I worked at had poor, or no Mission, they struggled and it was often a toxic environment to work in. I felt first hand the effects of not having a guiding set of goals could have on an organization and individuals.

When I started Stefania Wine I thought it was key to define what our vision for the company was and what it’s Mission Statement would be. It wasn’t as easy as it might seem. The vision was out there, but needed to be defined. The Mission, that took a little thought. I finally arrived at a really simple one. And Mission Statements have to be simple. Apple had a great on in the early 1980’s: “Change the World”. Some other great historical ones have included:

Ford Motor Company (early 1900's)
"Ford will democratize the automobile"
Sony (early 1950's)
"Become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products"
Boeing (1950)
"Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age"

We are not out to conquer the world, or dominate the wine market, our vision is much more small scale than that. Our Mission Statement reflects that, and where we want to be in 10 years.

"Make Friends"

Every time there is a choice to be made, a direction to go, or an action to take, we refer back to that Mission. Does what we are doing make friends? If it does, do it, if it doesn't, do something else. For us the most important outcome of this great adventure, the ultimate place we want to be, includes a home filled with friends. We also hope people will share our wine, and make friends with it. That would be for us a great achievement. Not just us making friends, but our product helping others make friends.

So when there is a shipping problem, or a bad bottle, or a request for extra wine, a visit, or special request, we go do what it takes to make a new friend. It's not just being nice, it is the very key part of who we are, what we do, and what we are hoping to achieve.


Anonymous said...

Great Post!!!!

tspyder said...

The best goals in life are the simple ones. I'm sure you will have no trouble keeping up with your Mission.