Why Does Your Company Exist?

The question should not be treated trivially, since the answer forms the bedrock of everything that a business does. It is entirely likely that the answer was thought of when the company was formed but unfortunately the answer evolves as does the business over a period of time. It stands to reason thus that the answer must be rethought periodically.

A lot of companies fall prey to vision hedging. That is, they define the vision of their business in long winding statements that leave scope for ambiguity. The businesses then hide behind this subjectivity and the business ends up driving the vision rather than the reverse. I encountered a fantastic vision statement in the 1999 Al Pacino, Russell Crowe starer The Insider. The evil CEO of the tobacco company espoused his mission statement as “We are in the nicotine delivery business”. For a moment shed the inhibition of this being a socially evil thing to do and concentrate on the pithy power of this seven-word statement. Nothing can be more clear than this. Once stated, adopting this around the company should not be a difficult matter.

I have seen Product Managers fall prey to vision hedging as well. Their products want to be many things to many people, sadly ending up as nothing to nobody. All products must have a vision statement that provides the purpose of building the product. Product Managers must then create themes for every release of the product and link them back to the vision. It is alright to change the vision but two rules apply

  1. Never change the vision frequently. Yes, we live in turbulent times but that should not be taken as excuse to create a volatile vision statement
  2. Keep it short and focused. Verbose vision statements that have more than four “and”s are an absolute no-no.

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