Re: Sample Mission Statement

Subject: Re: Sample Mission Statement
From: "Kirtland Olson (CITS)" <olson -at- ACOMP -dot- USF -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 7 Aug 1995 16:22:23 -0400

On 5 Aug 1995, Paul Gerle wrote:

> Greetings, all!

> I am proposing to use the following Mission Statement to guide
> all of our activities within our Technical Publications Dept.

> It's kind of "blue-sky", but it is intended to be so. Please provide
> comments for improvements.

In what follows, I've made some specific comments on sections and offer
some general pointers that would give some insight into useful techniques
for crafting a mission statement.

I have (at least) the following biases with respect to mission statements.
I prefer absolute statements that cannot be misinterpreted. I believe all
the statements should permit measurement so I can know whether I am
achieving what I set out to do. I believe customer requirements should be
expressed by customers. I believe what we do should be demonstrably linked
to satisfying expressed customer requirements.



> The ultimate objective of the Technical Publications department is:

> To provide excellent service to all customers, internal and external, by
> providing the highest quality, on-time documentation in a productive,
> growth-oriented environment.

If you did all the things following "by"--absolutely perfectly--would you
have provided excellent service to all customers? Is the mission the part
of the sentence that precedes "by," or the part that follows "by."

Should this mission statement contain a commitment to measuring customer
service and acting on the measurement?

> "Excellent Service" means:
> Understanding and responding to documentation and customer needs in an
> efficient and timely manner.

Replace "responding to" with "satisfying."

Omit "documentation and."

Efficiency, at first reading, seems to apply to the group's internal
needs. Make it clear that it's efficient use of the customer's time that
characterizes excellent service.

Replace "timely manner" with something like "before the customer's
problem {insert meaningful measurable here}.

> "Customer Needs" are:
> Written, visual, training, and multi-media materials which facilitate
> understanding of the computer technology used at Val-Pak.

These look to me like products, not customer needs. At minimum customer
needs include a package of services surrounding these products. But
customers often express much more--quick response, quick & dirty fixes,
participation in planning, a mechanism to discuss future applications,
and meaningful problem resolution, to name a few.

> "High Quality" means:
> Complete, current, accurate materials, produced on-time,

Note that your mission statement calls for "highest," not simply high.

These seem like Good Things (tm) and need measurable properties to say
when you accomplished them. Are these the only things the customers care
about? But the next piece is more about the internal group environment
than about what the customer gets.

> using tools and software designed to allow the author to concentrate on
> creativity and accuracy, not the tool.

Probably needs to move to the productive environment statement.

> "Productive Environment" means:
> Providing all of the tools and other resources necessary for skilled,
> motivated authors to produce high-quality documentation and related
> materials.

My personal quirk is to want tools that let unskilled, unmotivated, hacks
like me produce fine work. I want the tools to stay out of my way and let
me do what I want to do. Then I want it to check what I have done and
point out my stupid errors and facilitate my corrections.

More to the point, while you may mean to praise your staff, you also set
up the conditions for blaming the people who do the work. Do resources or
people constitute the productive environment?

> "Growth Oriented" means:
> Providing all employees of the Technical Publications department a clear
> career path, opportunities to express ideas, freedom from discrimination,
> and access to the best tools and resources available.

My concerns about the commitment to the best tools and resources gets
reinforced each time it's mentioned. There seems always to be a hedge.
Does access to the best mean on my desk or one in the building?

> What do you think?

Generally, the most crucial pieces of a mission statement seem to me to
center on deriving customer requirements from customer interviews, making
all goals measurable (and measuring them, then acting on the results),
and systematically linking customer requirements and departmental activities.

For those who need inexpensive references, the Baldrige Award booklet
gives an overview of management by measurement, and any reference that
discusses the "house of quality" concept shows how to link customer needs
and company actions.


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