Building A Definition Of Mission

Despite the diversity of opinion about mission, it is possible to distinguish two schools of thought about mission.

One approach describes mission in terms of business strategy. This strategic school views mission as a strategic tool: mission is something that is linked to strategy but at a higher level. It exists to answer two fundamental questions: "What is our business and what should it be?

In contrast, the second school of thought argues that mission is the cultural "glue" that enables an organization to function as a collective unity. This cultural glue consists of strong norms and values that influence the way in which people behave, how they work together, and how they pursue the goals of the organization. This view describes mission in terms of a distinct business philosophy, which in turn produces strong cultural norms and values. Thomas J. Watson, Jr., in his book, A Business and Its Beliefs, insisted that these beliefs have been the central pillar of the company's success.

Andrew Campbell and Laura L. Nash, authors of A Sense of Mission, believe that these two schools of thought can be synthesized into a comprehensive single description of mission. Their definition of mission is illustrated in a figure (The Ashridge Mission Model). According to this framework, a strong mission exists when four elements of mission: purpose, strategy, behavioral standards, and values - link tightly together, resonating and reinforce each other.

A sense of mission is not an intellectual concept; it is an emotional commitment. It is important to recognize the individual nature of sense of mission. Even in companies with a strong mission, there are many people "who do not feel an emonotional commitment." However, it recognizes that employees are stimulated more by the beliefs and values that the organization uses today that by dreams of glory and success in the future.

None of the relationships (see The Ashridge Mission Model Figure) central to this definition of mission is new. All of them have been exposed by other writers. For example, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their, In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, the best-selling business book of all time because of its gleeful recognition of the emotional side of organizations, authors examine psychologists, philosophers, and many practical studies of behavior and conclude that people yearn for transcendence. It is this observation that makes it possible for an organization to help an employee develop a sense of mission.

Four elements of mission are discussed in detail in other Chapters this thesis.


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Establishing Organizational Direction: Mission And Objectives
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