This article focuses on the syllabus area relating to an organisation’s core values and mission to the public, shareholders and employees. This is an objective which can easily get overlooked in the rush to master environmental analyses, strategic choice and outsourcing decisions
Learning objective 6(g) of the Paper P3, Business Analysis syllabus relates to how an organisation communicates its core values and mission to the public, shareholders and employees. This is an objective that can easily get overlooked in the rush to master environmental analyses, strategic choice and outsourcing decisions. However, it is important in practice and it is a challenge that many
organisations take very seriously.
This article will:
- briefly describe what the terms ‘mission’, ‘mission statement’ and ‘core values’ mean
- suggest why their communication to stakeholders is important
- describe a commonly used model of communication
- briefly describe communication methods that are available
- describe and give examples of how organisations might undertake the communication process.
An organisation’s mission is its basic purpose: What is it for? Why does it exist? What is its ‘raison d’être’?
A mission statement formalises the organisation’s mission by writing it down. Johnson, Scholes and Whittington define a mission statement as ‘a statement of the overriding direction and purpose of an organisation’. Some companies refer to ‘vision statements’ instead of mission statements; some writers and textbooks wring their hands attempting to distinguish between the terms ‘vision’ and ‘mission’. However, the distinction does not achieve much and the Paper P3 exam will treat the terms as meaning the same.
Many other writers attempt to expand the definition of a mission statement by adding detail to it. In summary, mission statements are usually assumed to address:
- what business is the company in?
- whom does the organisation serve?
- what benefits are to be delivered?
- what are the organisation’s values and ethics?
The final line above introduces the concept of values or core values. Johnson, Scholes and Whittington define core values as ‘principles that guide an organisation’s actions’.
Remember, there is no standard format or list of contents for mission statements, and organisations are completely free to write their own. However, for most purposes, it is worth distinguishing between a mission statement and a slogan. Nike’s ‘Just do it’ is a powerful advertising slogan, but under most definitions does not qualify as a mission statement.
Here are several examples of mission statements and core values:
Tesco (a UK supermarket chain):
To be the most highly valued by:
The customers we serve
Our core purpose is to create value for customers to earn their lifetime loyalty. This objective sits right at the heart of our business as one part of our Values – ‘No one tries harder for customers’.
The communities in which we operate
For Tesco to be considered a force for good, we must be a good neighbour and a responsible member of society.
Our loyal and committed staff
We know that if we look after our staff, they will look after our customers. Work can be a large part of our lives so our people deserve an employer who cares. That’s why one of our values is ‘Treat people how we like to be treated’. We are committed to providing opportunities for our people to get on and turn their jobs into careers, and across all of our markets we offer a wide range of competitive benefits.
As the owners of the business, it’s crucial that our shareholders value Tesco highly. Shareholders want a good return on their investment and that’s what we will continue to deliver for them. … We offer sustainable, profitable growth from a combination of a strong core UK business and exposure to rapidly growing emerging markets.
Intel (a manufacturer of computer chips):
This decade we will create and extend computing technology to connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth.
Great place to work
ACCA's mission is to:
- provide opportunity and access to people of ability around the world and support our members throughout their careers in accounting, business and finance
- achieve and promote the highest professional, ethical and governance standards
- advance the public interest
- be a global leader in the profession.
ACCA's core values are:
- Opportunity: we provide opportunity, free from artificial barriers, to people around the world – whether students, members or employees and we support them in their careers.
- Diversity: we respect and value difference, embracing diversity in our people and in our output.
- Innovation: we create new and unexpected possibilities, providing innovative solutions for the future.
- Accountability: we accept individual and corporate responsibility for our actions, working together to deliver a quality service and to promote the best interests of our stakeholders.
- Integrity: we act ethically and work in the public interest, treating people fairly and honestly; we encourage the same from others.
Why communication of mission and core values to stakeholders is important
- Investors need to know how the organisation intends to make profits or fulfil some other ambition.
- Directors and other employees need to know the organisation’s purpose, and how it intends to add value and to compete.
- Customers may wish to know what the organisation promises.
- All stakeholders should want to know how the organisation intends to conduct its operations; the principles that guide its actions; its moral and ethical ‘compass’.
For example, it is clear from Tesco’s mission statement that it places the highest emphasis on its long-term relationship with customers. This should guide management and staff as they make day-to-day strategic, tactical and operational decisions. To a large extent the other three parts of their vision statement flow from the first: customers, their families and friends will be part of the community, so it is important to deal fairly with that; staff are the company’s interface with its customers; if customers are well looked after and are loyal, good financial results should follow.
If Tesco had not placed such emphasis on its customer relationships it is likely that the goods it stocks, sales promotions, customer facilities, prices and quality would all subtly change. Tesco is saying to all that it lives or dies by the strength of its customer relations.
Of course, a strong and focussed mission does not guarantee success and in January 2012 Tesco suffered a 16% fall in share price after it announced its results. In response to this, the chief executive said that the company needed to reconnect with its customers and that Tesco needed to sharpen up its act in the quality and availability of its goods and the service it offered customers. The company planned to invest cash to put more people into the right stores, in the right areas, and to train them to be even better so they can look after the product and customers.
Intel places its sphere of business in the technology sector and has an international outlook. Nothing surprising there, but interesting detail is added in its core values. Perhaps the juxtaposition of discipline’ and ‘risk’ is most noteworthy. Stakeholders are made aware that a high tech company will only survive by taking risks (not all research and development will pay off), but this must be counter-balanced by a disciplined approach to market research, forecasting, expenditure and deadlines.
ACCA states very plainly that at its heart is the provision of opportunities to all nationalities and a diverse population. This will influence management, employees, students and members. Without the strong international reference, presumably ACCA would be much more likely to concentrate on a narrow, local market. Additionally, there is great emphasis on ethics and accountability.
Communicating objectives to stakeholders is likely to require different messages to each stakeholder group (for example, customers do not need to know about detailed cost objectives given to employees). However, mission and core values are long-term public commitments and promises, and it is vital that they are consistent otherwise they are quickly undermined. There is no point preaching to customers that the company aims to have a low carbon footprint while at the same time telling employees not to bother with recycling. Inconsistencies and half-heartedness will quickly be exposed and are likely to cause the organisation reputational damage – at the very least.
A communication model
A commonly-used model of communication is the Shannon-Weaver model. This depicts the communication process as: