Don't Iterate from the Status Quo

Tonight was my first night of summer school ever and my second to last class in the University of St. Thomas Evening MBA program. Fresh off finishing up my final core course this past spring, Operations Management, I am now on to Strategic Management. It's meant to be an all-encompassing "capstone" course that brings in elements from each of the ten required core courses included in the curriculum. The full description for the course can be seen below.

I learned a TON over the course of our first four-hour session. But the following statement from my professor, Dr. David Christopherson, caught my attention and is worth repeating (and inspired this blog post).

"Strategic management is an exercise of subtraction. Decide where to go and subtract the difference. Don't iterate from the status quo."

This is relevant and important to many different aspects of business and marketing specifically. Especially the process of defining a brand's position and developing a mission statement. To be clear, there are various definitions of "mission statement." I'm thinking of a mission statement as it's defined in the textbook we're required to read, Strategic Management and Business Policy.

"An organization's mission is the purpose of reason for the organization's existence. It tells what the company is providing to society. A well-conceived mission statement defines the fundamental, unique purpose that sets a company apart from other firms of its type and identifies the scope or domain of the company's operations in terms of products (including services) offered and markets served. A mission statement promotes a sense of shared expectations in employees and communicates a public image important stakeholder groups in the company's task environment."

Now that we're clear on the definition of a mission statement, take a second to re-read the quote above from Dr. Christopherson. When working through the process of creating a mission statement for your company, or a client you work with, don't let the status quo distract you. Think more about where you want your company to be in the next 12-18 months and then take a shot at articulating where your company stands today. (FYI :: some companies refer to their "mission" as where they stand today and their "vision" as what they would like to become.) Once you've completed this exercise, gaps will be exposed in terms of where you are today and where your company needs to be in the future. These gaps will help your company focus on defining objectives (the end results of planned activity) and an overall strategy (a comprehensive master plan that states how the corporation with achieve its mission and objectives).

Easy enough, right? Not so much. It's an exhaustive process that takes companies several months, if not years, to complete. But I encourage you to encourage the company you work for to think long and hard about creating a mission statement of they don't have one. Or, if they do have one, challenge it. Take a close look at what it says and think about whether or not it "promotes a sense of shared expectations in employees and communicates a public image important to stakeholder groups in the company's task environment." It's a great opportunity to think critically about your company's role in the world and what it's providing to society. Something you probably don't think about every day. If nothing else ... don't iterate from the status quo.