“He that is too secure
is not safe”.

Thomas Fuller

Mission, Goals and Sense of Direction in Strategy

It is really the truth that there is never a good wind for those who don’t know where they want to go. Many companies just “continue doing business” and just “try to continue making money” without much sense of direction. Of course over time they find to achieve their desired profitability harder and harder. Only a few bunch of corporations know exactly where to go, where not to go and, very importantly, how to get there. In doing so it is crucial to have a north, a compass that provides a sense of direction. This is they need to have a thorough strategy with a very clear mission.

Let me share and comment with you the mission of the Sloan School of Management at MIT. When you enter its state of the art brand new building through the main entrance your attention focuses immediately and naturally to the stunning staircase on the right. On top of it presiding the beautiful hall, capturing attention, there is the mission of the school on a marble wall: “The mission of the Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice”. Well, to me this is a true north. It provides a lot of information about what to do and not to do and, of course, tells everybody in the organization a series of “critical issues”:

  • We want to develop “principled” leaders. In the first place if you are not or don’t want to be a leader this is not your place. You need to be willing to do anything necessary to be a leader, other ways we do not want you here. In addition to this, values for us are important, principles are important. If you are the kind of “leader” that just want to reach your goals and ambitions without regard to the means this is not your place.
  • We want “Innovative leaders”. It is very clear, if you are a conservative type of manager, if you are not willing to get into unchartered waters, if you are not willing to try new approaches, this is not your place. Therefore be sure we’ll demand from you this particular type of attitude and behavior.
  • “Who improve the world”. This conveys a clear sense of direction. If you will only care about your company and you will not take into consideration its people, their families, the society as a whole and you are not willing to contribute to the common good, this is not your place.
  • “To generate ideas” so, this is not only about studying or mastering the ideas that already exist, you need to be willing (if you want to be with us) to go further, to come to new approaches to problems, to find different perspectives to analyze problems. Otherwise this is not your place.
  • “That advance the management practice”. We do not just try to “preserve” what we already know about management as a whole (it does not talk about any particular field…so this is about management, not just about marketing, finance or any other field in particular) we also want to get better, to go beyond, to be more effective, to do more with less…

This is a perfect example on how, just in three lines, you provide a sense of direction to all members of organization: students, faculty, administrators, etc. Overall it also provides the clear idea that “values are important for us” (the mission is placed, as we said, in the most important and relevant part of the building, publicly exposed).

Well, this would be the subject of a different article, but we know that those companies that are consistently more profitable over time are those that give values a prominent position in their everyday activity. These guys of MIT know a lot!

By Enrique Cortés PhD. Strategic Thinker-Advisor.


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