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Gary Cokins
Gary Cokins
Founder and CEO - Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC

Analytics-Based Performance Managent LLC
Manager, Performance Management Solutions


Are Vision, Mission and Values Statements Just Hollow Rhetoric?

Posted over 9 years ago

One of my pet peeves is that many organizations who hang their vision and mission statements on the wall of their building reception lobby have not completed their intent. The intent of these statements should be to drive transformational change.

I discovered a writer, Marshall Goldsmith, who I share his views. In excerpts from his recent article: Are You Wasting Your Time on Values Statements?

Marshall states:
Companies have wasted millions of dollars and countless hours of employees’ time agonizing over the wording of statements that are inscribed on plaques and hung on walls. … But this obsession with words belies one very large problem: There is almost no correlation between the words on the wall and the behavior of leaders. … since the big messages are all basically the same, the words quickly lose their real meaning to employees – if they had any in the first place.

A couple of years ago, my partner, Howard Morgan, and I completed a study … We looked at the impact of leadership development programs in changing executive behavior. As it turns out, each of the companies (researched) had different values and different words to describe ideal leadership behavior. But these differences in words made absolutely no difference in determining the way leaders behaved. One company spent thousands of hours composing just the right words to express its view of how leaders should act – in vain. I am sure that the first draft would have been just as useful.

Ultimately, actions (of executive leaders) will say much more to employees about (their) values and (their) leadership skills than words ever can. If (their) actions are wise, no one will care if the words on the wall are not perfect. If (their) actions are foolish, the wonderful words posted on the wall will only make (them) look more ridiculous.

What caught my attention was “no correlation between the words and … behavior.” What is a solution? I am big fan of strategy maps containing causally linked strategic objectives from which projects and core processes are identified for subsequent action and improvement. This brings focus. Then key performance indicators (KPIs) with targets are derived from the planned projects, actions and process improvements. They are monitored in a balanced scorecard – the feedback mechanism of the strategy map. You get what you measure. KPIs with accountability with consequences for them result in alignment of managers and employees with the executive’s mission and vision.

And where does correlation fit in? In a balanced scorecard influencing measures may have high or low correlation with influenced measures (sometimes called lagging indicators). Wouldn’t an organization want to routinely know the degree of correlation between its measures? If it did, then it could continuously refine the measures similar to a scientific laboratory experiment. And is this possible today? Yes. For the explanation of how, read the last few paragraphs of my blog Predictive Analytics – Dream or Reality?

Comments (2)

Michael Taplin
Michael Taplin is the home of The KPI Bible and offers the lowdown on KPI modeling

Hollow, “me too” values statements are a waste of time.
On the other hand they can have real relevance when they are well conceived.
Mission and values are two of the four anchor points for an organisation’s strategic framework. The framework defines the orgaisations strategy space, and guides strategic thinking.
If an organisation does everything within its strategy frame well, and rejects “opportunities” that lie outside the strategy frame, it is bound to remain focused on what is important.
The prospect of long life and success are greatly improved.
For a comprehensive discussion of this check out Creating Your strategy framework, a whitepaper from

Posted over 9 years ago | permalink
Gary Cokins
Gary Cokins
Founder and CEO - Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC

In reply to Michael Taplin:

Similar to my prior comment to Michael, I agree. Some vision statements can be real simple. Bill Gates probably once said, “A computer on every desktop” and Microsoft employees knew what he meant. The founder and CEO of my employer, SAS, coined our phrase, “The Power to Know,” and 11,000 SAS employees know what that means.

Thanks for your comments.

Gary Cokins

Posted over 9 years ago | permalink

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