COMPANY CULTURE

The 9 Worst Mission Statements of All Time

If your mission statement contains no typos, mentions what your company does, and doesn't go on for a whole page, you're already doing better than these major brands.
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A mission statement can be a forceful way to motivate yourself and your team toward a common goal. Just consider this, from Amazon's mission statement: "to be the Earth's most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online." Even when the company only sold books, this vision helped guide it where it wanted to go.

But if mission statements are powerful, they are also tough to get right. If you're struggling with yours, take heart: Some of the world's best-known brands have some of the most awful mission statements. Overly wordy, terminally vague, or just inane--you know you can do better than these:

1. You have plenty of time to read this--right?

"Avon's mission is focused on six core aspirations the company continually strives to achieve," begins Avon's mission statement. Then it goes on. And on. It weighs in at 249 words that cover everything from surpassing competitors to increasing shareholder value to fighting breast cancer.

It's great to do many important things all at once, but your mission statement should provide employees and the world at large with one or two key goals that define success in your universe. If you can't get that into a sentence or two, go back and try again.

2. Why bother with grammar?

"McDonald's brand mission is to be our customers' favorite place and way to eat and drink," begins McDonald's mission statement. That's fine, but then it continues: "Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience--People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion."

That manages to be both vague and hokey at the same time. But the important lesson is that after you've put in the time and effort and perhaps paid a consultant to create the perfect mission statement, you should take an extra few seconds to put it through a simple spelling and grammar check. If McDonald's execs had done this, they'd have realized they have subject-verb disagreement. It should be: "...aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which centers on an exceptional customer experience."

3. We don't care what business we're in.

Here's Albertsons' mission statement: "To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success."

In case you're wondering, Albertsons is a chain of grocery stores, primarily in the Western U.S. Ideally, your mission statement should mention what your company actually does.

4. The sky's the limit!

"To help make every brand more inspiring, and the world more intelligent," begins Avery Dennison's mission statement. That's a pretty lofty ambition for a company whose product is stick-on labels. A good mission statement should have some relationship to reality.

5. We don't mean it.

Here's the first sentence of Barnes & Noble's mission statement: "Our mission is to operate the best specialty retail business in America, regardless of the product we sell."

Here's the third sentence: "To say that our mission exists independent of the product we sell is to demean the importance and the distinction of being booksellers."

It's probably better if your mission statement doesn't contradict itself.

6. We like ourselves just the way we are.

"MGM Resorts International is the leader in entertainment & hospitality--a diverse collection of extraordinary people, distinctive brands and best in class destinations." It's billed as MGM Resorts' mission statement, but it's just a flattering self-description. Say what you aspire to be, not why you already think you're great.

7. We thought better of it.

Here's Hershey's mission (or vision) statement: "Continuing Milton Hershey’s legacy of commitment to consumers, community and children, we provide high-quality HERSHEY’S products while conducting our business in a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable manner." Other than the annoying practice of putting one's name in all upper case, that's not bad.

The company took some mocking for its previous mission statement which read in its entirety: "Undisputed Marketplace Leadership." Hershey's was smart to change it.

8. If you have nothing good to say...

Dell seems to have decided to meet the mission statement challenge by simply not having one. That should give you encouragement. Whatever you come up with has to be better than not trying at all.

9. Guess whose mission statement this is:

"It is our mission to continue to authoritatively provide access to diverse services to stay relevant in tomorrow's world."

Give up? It was created by the Mission Statement Generator which recombines nouns, verbs, and adjectives into prototypical mission statements that are delightfully replete with meaningless corporate-speak.

Admit it, for just a moment there you thought it was real.

MaryKate Burnell contributed research to this piece. 

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IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Nov 15, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, The Geek Gap

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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