The Problem of Vogon Mission Statements

A few months ago I was in a bar in Melbourne. I had been there for a number of hours, enjoying a relaxed atmosphere, friendly service, nice music, good coffee, and great Wi-Fi. (As a global bumblebee, I can say this is an almost unique combination.) I value good suppliers as much as I value good customers, and so I promoted the bar on Twitter, after looking up their details on-line. This is the “company mantra” that I found on their website:

When I was a little kid, some of my fondest memories were of the family holidays down at the beach. A fantastic ensemble of blurred memories filled with colour, excitement, adventure, food and that old weatherboard holiday house. Nowadays, we’re all so busy and don’t have time to visit the beach. Queen Street Rescue is exactly that! It’s your rescue! It’s a place where you can sit and relax and experience a little bit of the beach deep inside the City.

Queen Street Rescue, “Our Mantra”

And it worked. I had planned to have just a late breakfast, but I left after eight hours, three caffè lattes, lunch, tea, dinner, and a diet coke. The only thing I missed was half-naked youths on surf boards. (It was supposed to be like a beach, after all.)

The creation of mission statements seems to be one of the favorite activities of corporate management teams. Unfortunately, like poetry, many people try it, but only few are any good at it. And then you end up with mission statements such as “Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment” or “To be the leader in every market we serve, to the benefit of our customers and shareholders”, yadda yadda yadda (McKeown, “If I Read One More Platitude-Filled Mission Statement, I’ll Scream”).

I call them Vogon mission statements, the third worst in the universe. The second worst mission statement in the universe was written by a council of 63 lawyers on the planet Gnark, which, after the famous court case of Short-throat Sam versus the Cucumber, resulted in virtually all vegetables, and two very unfortunate species of fruit, being sued into extinction, while the last remaining settlement of carrots, celery, and radishes lived in exile on Gnark’s second moon, briefly thriving and producing green stalks with oddly protruding orange balls, until the untimely crash landing of Björn the Blender. The very worst mission statement in the universe was created by a company on earth called Yahoo!

Work Expo cover miniThis text is part of Work Expo, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more here.

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