Improving Customer Service

Issue # 37 of 70 

John T. Self, Ph.D.
By: Dr. John T. Self

The Mission of the Mission Statement

Ahhh, the mission statement.

One of the greatest examples of a mission statement (although light on Political Correctness):

"To boldly go where no man has gone before."
Note the passion: not just go, but boldly go.

Also note the clear focus and direction: Go where no man has gone before.

Passion, clear focus and direction, not to mention the most important thing: They lived their mission statement. It wasn't some corporate slogan generated to look good for stockholders in their multicolored annual report. The crew of the Enterprise lived it. Each and every crew member knew it and was expected to live by it. Indeed, they were proud to live, and be influenced by, the mission statement in their daily routines.

Is fact so far removed from fiction that this blending of mission and behavior is simply not possible today? Why are so many companies not living their mission statement? How many people who are reading this know their own company's mission statement?

If not, the mission statement must not be very important.

But therein lies the irony; it is important. Of course nothing can be seen as important when people don't even know it exists or don't understand it. Or the managers and the employees of the company really don't "own" it or buy into it.

Anyone who is a long time(Internet time) reader of this column knows I love sayings. One reason is that they can be so true. Take, for example, this old saying:

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."

Definitely true and precisely put when the saying is applied to mission statements. Make it short, simple and elegant. The mission statement should encompass the core values of the company as well as its spirit and passion and it should be specific about where the company is going or how it is going to achieve the mission.

A process to accomplish this is the following:

  1. Assemble a small focus group to brainstorm the essential themes of the company.

  2. Brainstorming should include the core elements of where the company is heading and how it will get there, plus the passion necessary to drive behavior.

  3. Turn this brainstorming collection of ideas (remember in brainstorming, there are no judgements, no bad ideas) into statements.

  4. Turn the statements into your finished mission statement.
Anytime the group finds itself struggling with the statements, trying to mold them into an effective mission statement, just keep the elements of the Star Trek mission statement in mind. When you do, the statement will flow and I can just imagine Captain Kirk nodding his approval as he looks on.

John T. Self is a lecturer at The Collins School of Hospitality Management at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly Pomona). Prior to entering academia, Dr. Self spent fifteen years in the restaurant industry. While in the corporate world, he worked for several chains including Chili's and Steak and Ale, and as vice president of a regional restaurant chain overseeing six restaurants with sales of over twenty million dollars. He has also owned three independent restaurants, including a comedy club.
Dr. Self has also been involved in the development of international hospitality programs. While at Golden Gate University, he started the partnership with Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China and is continuing in that involvement at Cal Poly.

Improving Customer Service #37 of 70: View all in the Table of Contents

For more customer service articles, visit the Customer Service series on the new Sideroad: Practical Advice Straight from The Experts.

Text © Dr. John T. Self, 1997,1998. Part of the original Sideroad.