Formulating Purpose and Missions

There is no standard approach to the formulation of purpose and missions. Purpose and mission statements are highly dependent on the values of the chief executive officer, however, and a purpose and mission statement is not likely to be changed without the direct intervention of the CEO.

Sometimes a purpose and mission change is the result of a great deal of conversation among top executives of a company. This was certainly the case with the decision to produce the L-I OIl. Following a disastrous experience with the Electra in the 1950s the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation completely eliminated a commercial airliner from its basic purpose and mission. The company had no written purpose and mission but the purpose and mission was generally understood by managers and did not include a commercial airliner. Then in the 1960s the company decided to produce a commercial, wide-bodied jet airliner, the L-l 0 11. This change was made only after a great deal of discussion at the top and a final decision by the chief executive officer to go ahead.

When James McFarland became chief executive officer of General Mills he said: “I asked myself what was expected of me as CEO. I decided that my role was really to build General Mills from a good into a great company.

It is about Purpose and missions – But I realized this was not just up to me. I wanted a collective viewpoint as to what makes a company great. Consequently, we took some thirty-five top people away for three days to decide what it took to move the company from “goodness” to “greatness.” Working in groups of six to eight, we defined the characteristics of a great company from various points of view, what our shortcomings were, and how we might overcome these”. Next, charters for specific divisions and groups were written in ‘c light of that meeting. They became the guidelines for a very successful company.

In small organizations the CEO can and often does establish basic purpose and missions without much reference to others. Top managers of larger organizations, except in unusual instances, do not find this the best approach. Changing a purpose and mission or basic purposes in any significant way will likely necessitate major changes in the organizations operations, the Interrelationships of people, the way in which people use their skills, and so on. Hence, precipitous changes, unless made in response to a crisis, are less likely to be r’ successful than those that are gradually worked out by extended discussion. After interviewing 100 top managers James Brian Quinn suggested that managing significant changes is best done on an incremental basis. He found that in practice executives followed a sequence of steps – Once again about Purpose and missions

First, they recognized a need for change.

Second, they sought to encourage the organization to acknowledge this need by commissioning study groups, staff members, or consultants to examine problems, options, contingencies, or opportunities posed by the, sensed need.

Third, they tried to broaden support through unstructured discussions, probing of positions, definition of differences of opinion, encouraging concepts favored by the chief executive, discouraging ideas not favored by top management, and so on.

Fourth, they created pockets of commitment by building necessary skills or technologies within the organization, testing options, and taking opportunities to make decisions to build support.

Fifth, they established a clear focus either by creating an ad hoc committee to formulate a position or by expressing specific ends that top management desired.

Sixth, they obtained real commitment by assigning someone who would champion the goal and be accountable for its accomplishment. This last step can be expanded, for example, by including specific commitments in budgets and by making short-range operating plans.

Finally, the chief executive must insure that the organization is capable of responding to new opportunities and threats; in other words, that once a decision is made, the firm will not become locked in a fixed position. This process, says Quinn, “is a delicate art, requiring a subtle balance of vision, entrepreneurship, and politics.”

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