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I was in a conversation recently about our mission and vision statements, and how it is important to have them as a model of what your company is trying to do, and what it would like to be doing in the future.

It got me to thinking about why, as a programmer, it is important to understand the basics of business.

Without understanding the company mission or vision, how can you support the business goals and aspirations? Without knowing them, how can you understand them?

We're in the process of redefining ours. What are yours? Do you have a personal mission and vision for your career? Can you boil it down into a couple of concise sentences?

That's one I'm going to have to think about. But I'd love to hear your ideas...

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I'm not sure if I believe any company mission statements that I read. (Why indeed do I read them?). Most really are popous pieces of idealistic yet generic twaddle.

Try this: visit 10 websites of companies in the same line of business as yours. Print out each mission statement on a piece of paper each (deleting any company names), and then print out their logos each on pieces of paper. Now, give these 20 pieces of paper to a colleague and ask them to match them up - statement to logo. You'd be lucky to get even a few right and you'll probably agree they are very interchangable, any company could have written the other ones statement.

This has given me an idea for a new website. It randomly generates a statement you can buy for $10 a time. I'm on to a winner here! ;-)

Posted by Gary F on Nov 12, 2007 at 11:30 AM UTC - 5 hrs

Gary- You make a good point, and I think it would be fun to do the exercise you outlined. I also wonder if I showed that colleague his own company's mission statement, would he recognize even that one? And having your website would likely have saved us a good hour if we had your website when creating our latest one. Perhaps I'll visit if its up and running the next time we decide to do this. =)

On the other hand, being a part of the team that creates the mission statement, I had the unique opportunity to debate many words that boil down to those few sentences everyone else is reading. Certainly all involved now have a better idea of where we want our company to go (we are small), and if we can take the time to explain to others why each word was chosen over another, I think it can give a good idea to everyone else as well.

As far as being idealistic - I have no disagreement there. It is the idealized company you are trying to be that the mission and vision statements seek to describe.

Pick any system of values or ethics someone might subscribe to: failure to follow it on occasion does not make that person a hypocrite, it just means they are not perfect.

So in that regard, it is just something to guide us. Instead of floating around aimlessly letting chance dictate our path, we've set in stone what we aim to be, and proactively try to reach that goal.

Hope that makes sense. What do you think about a personal mission statement? The same?

Posted by Sam on Nov 12, 2007 at 12:26 PM UTC - 5 hrs

Hi Sam. If someone is ambitious enough to write a personal mission statement then I think they'd be re-writing it on an annual basis, unless they're a jnr lawyer or accountant who have already mapped out the next 5 years of their life :-)

Personal circumstances change far quicker than the direction a company takes. I feel that if people write a personal mission statement that's too specific they could be neglecting new opportunities that pop up now and again if it doesn't align with their mission.

Posted by Gary F on Nov 12, 2007 at 03:38 PM UTC - 5 hrs

That's probably the case. I wonder if you could word it such that it identified your longterm personal goals, which I would assume change far less often than your circumstances. Of course, it may become much less useful that way as well.

I might try it one of these days and see if it does anything for me. Thanks for helping me think through this, in any case!

Do you mind if I do that match the company to the mission statement experiment as a post on this blog some time?

Posted by Sam on Nov 13, 2007 at 06:13 AM UTC - 5 hrs

If would be a fun test to do. Perhaps it can be done as a Flex app so visitors to your blog can move the logos and mission statements around with their mouse and it will tell them if they're right or wrong. ;-)

Posted by Gary F on Nov 13, 2007 at 06:24 PM UTC - 5 hrs

Sounds even better - I was just thinking of making it an HTML quiz. Thanks!

Posted by Sam on Nov 14, 2007 at 05:34 AM UTC - 5 hrs

hi my name is mark wopt u upo to

Posted by mark barratt on Feb 07, 2008 at 03:23 AM UTC - 5 hrs

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