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Should you choose to accept it…


The more observant amongst you will have noticed that it’s been about a month since I last posted a blog. In the intervening time, I’ve had a holiday, done a little bit of traveling done a little bit of work and had a serious think about what I’m going to do this year. That, in turn, got me thinking about mission statements.

I used to stay in a hotel in Ireland fairly regularly on business. It was a beautiful hotel and the quality of the rooms, the standard of service was always good.  It was a converted castle (I don’t know why I’m being coy about naming it; a small amount of Googling will find it easily) and I enjoyed staying there. Would I recommend it? Yes, probably.

The hotel has a mission statement and they’re serious about it – it’s everywhere. On their stationery, on posters – they probably have it printed somewhere on the staff uniforms.  Everyone who works in the hotel an tell you what the mission statement is, without even having to think about it – I know, I’ve asked.  The interesting thing is, no one who works in the hotel can tell you what it means.  I know, I’ve asked.  The mission statement is just a jumble of words. I recognise them all individually but when strung together in that order, I just don’t understand what they mean and neither do the employees – it’s memorable and yet meaningless.

Recently, I had the experience of traveling on Ryanair. You can like what they do or loathe it – I know which side of the fence I fall – but one thing is undeniable: not only do they know what their mission statement is, it’s clear, unambiguous, and drives everything they do. They are the low cost airline, and that mission statement is used as the guiding principle for all of the decisions they make.  It’s concrete and easily understandable; it’s not all things to all people. I think it was Tony Blair who said “to decide is to divide” and that’s what a good mission statement does: it divides what’s important from what’s not important. And that’s a key judgement that all organisations need to make.

A mission statement is more than just fancy words; it’s about more than inspiration. For employees to engage, they have to have something to engage with. A mission statement should provide that: it’s your organisation’s north star, it’s the fixed point by which you navigate, the standard you use to test your decisions.  Otherwise… well, you’re just making history through your passion for excellence, aren’t you?

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