Mission: Forgettable

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A company mission statement is like that small fifth pocket on a pair of Levi’s blue jeans: Everybody’s got one, no one’s really sure what it’s for, but we’re all glad it’s there.

Northeast Ohio companies fare no better. About half, 48 percent, of employers say not everyone in their company even knows the company’s mission statement, if they have one at all, according this year’s Workplace Practices Survey from the Employers Resource Council and SBN Magazine. That figure is the same as in last year’s survey.

But there are company owners out there who put more emphasis on their mission statement. Instead of just a generic statement about how they will “dominate the market” or “demand the best,” they try to make the words an active part of their business plan.

To make your statement more significant, the first step is to make it part of a larger strategic concept, says Gary Fitzgerald, president of Meister Publishing Co. in Willoughby. In the early 1990s, Fitzgerald and a group of employee volunteers designed the Team Meister program. It not only includes a mission statement, but also a seven-point “Blueprint for Success,” seven principles of how employees should treat each other, customers and the company.

The Team Meister concept includes a community outreach committee for charity work, as well as committees for employee training and development, awards and recognition, and service excellence.

Participation

One way to make sure your employees don’t care or that they forget your company’s mission is to have it come down as an edict from the top executive or human resources office. The key to Meister’s success is that the entire company was involved in the program’s design.

Fitzgerald held companywide meetings to talk about where his employees thought the rapidly growing and diversifying company was headed. He assembled a task force of volunteers from those meetings.

“That group reached out through the organization to identify what were the key elements that made us unique as a company,” Fitzgerald says. “That’s why it’s been so well received. It’s really been a companywide program in terms of the name of the program, how it would develop and its scope.”

Keeping it alive

The real challenge was not designing the Team Meister program but keeping it in employees’ minds. Keeping it fresh wasn’t just a matter of putting up big signs reminding people, although the Blueprint for Success is placed throughout the corridors of Meister Publishing.

Fitzgerald and his volunteers also keep the program active through charity events including Harvest for Hunger, for which Meister’s 105 employees last year collected 4,259 pounds of food for the needy.

There is also once a year a weeklong company event called Team Meister to encourage employees and management to recommit to the program and its values.

Lead by example

Once you and your employees commit to a mission statement or a set of values, the pressure is on you and your management team to act. A surefire way to breed cynicism is for employees to see that you put no stock in your company’s mission statement, especially when it uses words like honesty, teamwork and enthusiasm.

“You have to test all your business decisions and how you conduct your activities in your organization based on these values,” Fitzgerald says. “There can’t be a disconnect between the executive management and the rest of the organization. Otherwise, a certain insincerity would develop within the organization.”

How to reach: Meister Publishing Co., (440) 942-2000

Morgan Lewis Jr. ([email protected]) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.