That Vision Thing: Do We Need It?

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That Vision Thing: Do We Need It?
Michael E. Raynor

T H E CEO OF IBM, LOUIS V. Gerstner, Jr., was widely quoted in the press when, faced with the challenge of turning around the beleaguered computer maker, he said, 'the last thing IBM needs right now is a vision'. 1 For a good many critics, Gerstner's comment was greeted with a heartfelt 'it's about t i m e ' - - t h a t is, it is about time that a senior executive had the courage to speak up and put all that rhetoric about visions and missions in its place. There is justification for such cynicism. There is a surfeit of articles and books claiming to spell out the one best way to create vision and mission, and no two read alike. As a consequence, what exactly mission and vision statements are supposed to do for a company remains a mystery. Nevertheless, like a Phoenix from the ashes, the idea of corporate mission was resurrected at IBM by none other than Gerstner himself. Drafted in late 1993 (a year when losses at Big Blue exceeded US$8 billion), IBM's Statement of Principles (see Table 1) is slowly being disseminated through the company.

'Vision' and 'mission' are words whose power is overshadowed only by the confusion which surrounds them. And so, while many executives are convinced of the importance of vision and mission statemenIs, they remain frustrated in their a~empts to realize the full value of these concepts. This article presents a comprehensive framework for vision and mission

of how the framework has been used successfully. © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved

• The marketplace is the driving force behind everything that w e do. • At our core, we are a t e c h n o l o g y c o m p a n y w i t h an o v e r r i d i n g c o m m i t m e n t to quality. • Our p r i m a r y measures of success are c u s t o m e r satisfaction and s h a r e h o l d e r value. • We operate as an entrepreneurial organization w i t h a m i n i m u m of bureaucracy and a never-ending focus on productivity. • We never lose sight of our strategic vision. • We think and act w i t h a sense of urgency. • Outstanding, dedicated people make it all happen, particularly w h e n t h e y w o r k t o g e t h e r as a team. • We are sensitive to the needs of all e m p l o y e e s and to the c o m m u n i t i e s in w h i c h w e operate.

According to Pat McCracken, IBM's director of internal communication, Gerstner's aim is nothing less than 're-inventing the company'. 2 With IBM back in the black (annual returns of 15%-65% for 19931996) these efforts were clearly effective. Nor is it just large organizations which feel that mission and vision statements have real merit. Celestial Seasonings, a leading manufacturer of speciality teas, uses its mission statement to take its company beyond the mere blending of tea leaves. Evoking the notion of a 'tea experience' (see Table 2), Celestial Seasonings stakes out its competitive territory with a complete arsenal of branding mechanisms from product quality to packaging to corporate image--each of which is motivated by and grounded in the company mission statement. 2 It would seem, then, that the cynics cannot be entirely correct. No matter what the confusion surrounding vision and mission, the ideas are simply too LongRangePlanning, Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 368 to 376, 1998 © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved Printed in Great Britain 0024-6301/98 $19.00+0.00




missionis to grow and dominate the U.S. specialtytea market by exceeding customer expectations with: The best tasting, 100% natural hot and iced teas, packaged with Celestial art and philosophy, creating the most valued tea experience.

Through leadership, innovation, focus, and teamwork we are dedicated to continuously improving value to our consumers, customers, employees, and stakeholders with a quality-first organization.

i m p o r t a n t to a l o w t h e m to lie fallow. This article is i n t e n d e d...
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