Business Insight Your corporate mission may be killing your business!

Is your Corporate Mission killing your business?

by Roger La Salle

What’s your business Mission?
Most businesses have Mission or Vision statements as to what they are about, where they are headed and what they wish to achieve.

The aim of such an overarching statement is to align the organisation and its people to the common goal. Indeed the best definition of an organisation is “A Group of People Charged with a Common Goal” so what better way to align your people than to define and boldly state this in a mission statement.

What are the risks?
Whilst a mission or vision as the overarching statement of aim and purpose may be valuable, at least in the beginning, one may ask, should that be engraved in unchangeable tablets of granite?

Just like innovation, there should always be a need to explore new horizons and in many cases it may be important to revisit and perhaps redefine the mission as the business and business conditions change and evolve. Indeed a failure to do so may otherwise lock your people into a fixed mindset that may ultimately lead to your undoing.

Some notable examples
Some notable failures that “stuck to their knitting” may include KODAK that seemed locked into the mindset of selling and processing film and the paper and chemicals that enable this process. Perhaps many of the Swiss watch companies that ignored the emerging digital quartz technology are another example. So too the now rapidly declining printed media that thought the internet would never take off or maybe the makers of matches that ignored the butane lighter, and many more.

Indeed in the case of the latter example I once heard a marketing manager trying to convince his corporate masters (The Mission Makers) that they were in fact not in the match making business but in the business of flame on demand. He was laughed out of the room! Today that company no longer exists.

On the other hand look at some businesses with a wider view of the world that were not constrained by a narrowly focused corporate Mission; and so were able to reposition as things changed and new opportunities emerged.

None better than Google comes to mind. A business that started as a search engine but is now into anything they perceive as an opportunity. GE that started in engineering and moved to the finance sector. Nokia, formerly in the lumber business that set the bench mark in mobile phones. HP made its name in scientific instruments but is now huge in consumer electronics. The list of successful diversifications is endless, so too the list of failures.

Why Innovation?
The fact is; innovation needs to be applied across your entire business spectrum, especially in these days of such rapid change. Without flexibility or an innovative culture in your business there is a real risk of locking people into “Tunnel Mission” with a too rigidly defined corporate mission.

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Roger La Salle, trains people in innovation, marketing and the new emerging art of Opportunity Capture. “Matrix Thinking”™ is now used in organisations in more than 29 countries. He is sought after as a speaker on Innovation, Opportunity and business development and is the author of four books and a Director and former CEO of the Innovation Centre of Victoria (INNOVIC) as well as a number of companies both in Australia and overseas. He has been responsible for a number of successful technology start-ups and in 2004 was a regular panellist on the ABC New Inventors TV program. In 2005 he was appointed to the “Chair of Innovation” at “The Queens University” in Belfast.

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