A Comment On Vision/Purpose Statements

"...what business does not have a mission or value statement? Enron had a corporate value statement, as did WorldCom, Tyco, and countless other firms that have ultimately been devastated by violations of their own code of conduct. None of these value statements functioned as adequate checks to exceeding abuse of power......that's the difference between good ideas and governing ideas. Ideas move from good ideas to governing ideas when they become the foundation of an organisation's system of governance - that is, when they become a source of decision-making power. Having lofty value statements obviously doesn't necessarily empower people to speak out against practices that violate values. Real governing ideas must be married to processes and norms that enable people to live the organisation's values and purpose......establish ways that people can challenge executive actions effectively, embedded in a culture that both respects and generally challenges authority. Otherwise, people can only do so by putting themselves at personal risk, which means that corrections inevitably occur too late. Most value and mission statements combined with traditional authoritarian government structures are worse than useless - they breed cynicism and become a smoke screen for business as usual. Discovering governing ideas et al generate real meaning and building the commitment to translate them into how we live and work together is hard work..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005


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