October 27, 2010

Mission Statements Don’t Get No Respect

Mary MahoneyBY Mary Mahoney

J. Robinson Group Blog

To borrow the words of the late Rodney Dangerfield, mission statements “don’t get no respect.” It seems that even the very people who once advocated them now love to despise them.

Listen to what business guru Tom Peters now says about mission statements: “Like all good things, the idea has been attenuated beyond recognition. A Tepid Top Team goes ‘offsite’ to somewhere warm in February, produces six insipid statements that differentiate them/the company from no one.

“They have no clue as to what it really means to live up to these statements, assuming they were serious in the first place and not just following the herd. Then they return home, have their gin-soaked ‘gem’ immortalized in plastic and hand it out ceremoniously to 20,000 of the Unwashed as Holy Writ.”

A little harsh? Maybe, but his contemporary Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, shares the wrath: “Many companies have dreary mission statements that are nothing more than a bland description of the company’s operations – a boring stream of words that evokes the response, ‘True, but who cares?’

“The statements smack of corporate doublespeak and are incapable of tapping people’s spirit.” He cites the following example of a “dead fish” mission statement:

“The corporation is committed to providing innovative engineering solutions to specialized problems where technology and close attention to customer service can differentiate it from job-shop or commodity of production operations.”

How is it that something so vitally important to any size business, so integral to the development of a strategic business plan is handled so poorly by so many companies?

Stephen Covey, in his very first book, First Things First, offers an explanation. He believes that mission statements often are not taken seriously in organizations because they are developed by top executives who never bother to get the buy-in of their employees.

So, it’s not that these experts hate the idea of mission statements; they just hate the way this good idea has been executed – poorly – and they love to chide the pompous, self-important executives who have hijacked a good business concept as window-dressing.

The fact is, mission statements are as fundamental to a strategic business plan as a concrete block foundation is to the integrity of any structure. They serve to define the organization’s purpose. Without a purpose, companies – like people – get lost.

Collins describes an effective mission statement as “a clear and compelling goal that focuses people’s efforts. It is tangible, specific, crisp, clear and engaging. It reaches out and grabs people in the gut.”

As an example, he cites President John F. Kennedy’s famous “Man on the Moon” speech: “This nation should dedicate itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.”

Collins also likes the mission espoused by Jack Welch when he was CEO of General Electric, who said the company should “become number one or number two in every market we serve and revolutionize this company to have the speed and agility of a small enterprise.”

Cary Adams, a management consultant who coauthored the book, Six Sigma Deployment, says a mission statement should “state who we are, whom we serve, what products and services we provide and how we make those products and services available to our customer, clients or patients.”

Only when an organization has established its vision, mission and value can it proceed to develop a strategy, he notes. “To attempt to develop a strategy before values, vision and mission are clear, understood and accepted is a mistake.”

Peter Drucker, in his classic book, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices, said a good mission statement makes strategy formulation, strategy implementation and strategy evaluation much easier.

The team at J.Robinson Group helps companies develop vision and mission statements and the strategic plans that flow from them. We believe our ability to provide independent, objective analyses and advice can help our clients develop truly meaningful mission statements.

I would like to close with some of my favorite mission statements:

Google: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The Hershey Company: “Bringing sweet moments of Hershey happiness to the world every day.”

Walmart: “We save people money so they can live better.”

Aflac: “To combine innovative strategic marketing with quality products and services at competitive prices to provide the best insurance value for consumers.”

Dolce Hotels and Resorts: “Dolce is committed to delighting its guests, challenging its associates, rewarding its owners and serving as a role model in its communities.”

Honda: “Maintaining a global viewpoint, we are dedicated to supplying products of the highest quality, yet at a reasonable price for worldwide customer satisfaction.”

Carnival Cruise Lines: “Carnival Cruise Lines prides itself on delivering fun, memorable vacations to our guests by offering a wide array of quality cruises which present outstanding value for the money.”

What’s your favorite mission statement? I’d love to hear what resonates with you.

Next time, I’ll continue with my exploration of the strategic planning process.

October 14, 2010

Who Needs a Vision?

Mary MahoneyBY Mary Mahoney

J. Robinson Group Blog

“Who needs a vision statement? That’s for big companies with time and money to waste. I don’t need one.”

I hear that all the time, especially from smaller companies and entrepreneurs who rather would just “keep cranking.” The problem is, it’s impossible to develop a meaningful business plan – even for the short term — without a vision. It would be like embarking on a road trip without first picking a destination.

An accurate, meaningful vision statement is the foundation upon which a company’s mission statement and strategic plan are built. Those elements keep everyone in an organization focused on their common purpose. Conversely, failure to develop a vision, mission and plan is a frequent reason why businesses fail.

My thinking on this topic is inspired by the teachings of Peter F. Drucker (The Man Who Invented Management) and David P. Norton and Robert S. Kaplan, authors of The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy Into Action.

Drucker helped industries think differently and position themselves for the future based on his vision of shifting technologies, the digital information revolution and man’s need to improve his habitat.

Simply put, vision is an understanding of who you are and where you want to go. A vision statement helps define and communicate a company’s direction and future.

It has been said that “management is doing things right” and “leadership is doing the right thing.” In that context, a vision statement defines the “right things” for a company to spend its time doing.

Before I discuss key elements for a company vision, I’d like to share a personal story that illustrates how I developed a vision for becoming a consultant and creating my own company, J. Robinson Group.

When I left corporate America four years ago, I took a year-long sabbatical to reorient myself before making my next career move. I spent a lot of time reflecting on who I am, what I have to offer and where I want to go in life. It was a very rewarding journey, one that I was privileged to take thanks to my husband’s patience and support.

As I looked back on my professional life, I considered those roles and responsibilities that enabled me to make the most impact, engendered the most appreciation, tapped my passions and ignited a “fire in the belly” feeling that I always found so rewarding and satisfying.

Distilling down all those experiences, I realized that I was happiest and most fulfilled when I could freely apply my business knowledge and creativity to solve complex problems, particularly those related to strategy and brand management. This is the essence of why I became a consultant and established my own company.

The process of reflection also helped me formulate the following vision statement for my company:

“J. Robinson Group will become the resource of choice for companies that need help directing their efforts to capitalize on future growth and prosperity. We will be known for our unique ability to focus deeply on a company’s brand, operating culture and capacity for change to generate desired results.”

As a business consultant, I now help other people and their companies go through this process of reflection and create a vision statement as the first step in developing their strategic business plans. Here are key points that I keep in mind when writing a vision statement:

A company vision should:

1. Be aspirational and inspire high performance by employees

2. Paint a picture of the future and the role that the organization and its people will play

3. Set the organization in motion

4. Define mid- to long-term goals

5. Describe how an organization wants to be perceived by the world

6. Help customers, shareholders and employees understand what the company is all about and what it intends to achieve

7. Represent a view for what the company can become

When defining your vision, stay away from quantifiable statements and focus more on developing statements that are engaging and meaningful in totality.

As I said, establishing a vision statement is the first step to creating a strategic business plan. Vision alone is too vague to guide day-to-day operations and resource allocations. That’s when strategy and tactics come into play. A vision can only become operational when the company defines a strategy for how the vision will be achieved.

In my next blog post, I’ll pick up where we left off to discuss the next steps in writing a mission statement and business plan.

October 7, 2010

Introducing My Strategic View

Mary MahoneyBY Mary Mahoney

J. Robinson Group Blog

My firm, J. Robinson Group, was formed to help businesses grow, prosper and develop more meaningful relationships within their local communities.  We prove our abilities every day to our clients.  However, I know there are many other companies that could benefit from our philosophies and methodologies.

That’s the motivation for this blog.  My goal is to provide another voice for J. Robinson Group and bring our philosophies and methodologies to a larger audience on a regular basis.  I call the blog My Strategic View because I strongly believe that a clear vision and strategy are essential elements to business success – and profitability!

Client relationships are founded on trust and confidence.  I would like to share my background — and that of my J. Robinson Group colleagues, Susan Beversluis and Judy Maillet — with you, just as I would with any other client, to establish our credibility and expertise.

I founded J. Robinson Group in 2007 after two decades with a Fortune 100 corporation, Wyndham Worldwide (NYSE: WYN), and iconic brands including RCI, Howard Johnson and Days Inn.  My last corporate position was President and Chief Executive Officer of RCI North America, a division of Wyndham Worldwide.

Prior to that, I was Executive Vice President of Hospitality and Resort Operations for Wyndham Vacation Ownership, President and CEO of Howard Johnson International, Director of Market Development for Cendant Corporation and Director of Marketing & International Sales for Days Inns of America.

During those years I was honored as one of “The Top 75 Executives in Hospitality” by Lodging magazine, “One of the Most Powerful Women in Travel,” by Travel Agent magazine and one of the “Next Generation of Hot New Marketers” by Brandweek magazine.

My career also afforded me the opportunity to engage in corporate philanthropy, notably America’s Promise, an initiative championed by former Secretary of State Colin Powell.  I was invited to the White House to be recognized by President George H.W. Bush for Howard Johnson’s youth mentoring programs in support of America’s Promise.

If I were to sum up my accomplishments, I would say that I succeeded in building strong corporate and executive board relationships, delivering consistent, high-quality services and products, improving customer services and retention rates and building a team of professionals who achieved profitability, growth and operational excellence.

Susan Beversluis, who joined J. Robinson Group last year, previously was my colleague at Wyndham Vacation Ownership (which, I should mention, is the world’s largest vacation ownership company), where she served as Senior Vice President, Brand Management, for nine years and earned her Six Sigma Green Belt.

Prior to that, she was Director of Brand Marketing for the former Sunterra Resorts (now Diamond Resorts), another leading vacation ownership company, and Marketing Manager for Bank One (now Chase).

Susan’s professional specialties are brand development and execution, supported by her work in market research, product development, promotional strategies, marketing operations and on-site hospitality. More recently, she has concentrated on Internet marketing strategies, including social media.

Judy Maillet worked side by side with us at Wyndham Vacation Ownership as Director of Brand Management, where she led account management for more than 50 internal departments and initiatives.  She left Wyndham to become Senior Membership Director of the Central Florida YMCA before joining J. Robinson Group this year.

Judy brings us a track record of managing strategic sales and marketing initiatives and a dynamic background in developing cutting-edge technological solutions for sales and marketing teams. She has led training and development programs at all levels with a specific focus on mentoring and leadership development.  

Now that you know something about us, let me tell you more about our firm.  As specialists in management, marketing and social media, we focus on our clients’ brands, operating culture and capacity to change. Before we provide any advice, we work to gain a thorough understand of our clients and their business challenges.

Our methodology leads to honest, actionable and straightforward recommendations that are designed to help take our clients from where they are today to where they can be tomorrow.  Our unique portfolio of clients includes health-care organizations, nonprofits, small businesses, start-ups, hospitality providers, travel specialists and educators.  

In my upcoming blogs, I’ll share success stories and explain the importance of establishing a business vision, strategic plan and executing that plan effectively.  If you like what you read, I hope that you recommend this blog to your friends, coworkers and industry colleagues, both directly and through the social media.

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