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In the early 1990s the corporate fashion for developing mission statements caused countless thousands to sit about in small groups with white boards developing gushy statements often with quasi-religious undertones. Some even called them “missionary” statements. The verbally incontinent facilitators who typically led these occasions would whip participants into frenzies of optimism, urging the manufacturers of humble nuts and bolts to feel that they were responsible for holding the very world together. Every word was weighed and measured to ensure employees and the public would be instilled with an inspirational, visionary zeal. Mission statements were not to be the cries of shrinking corporate violets.
Philip Morris Australia’s corporate affairs division recently jumped on this bandwagon and has announced with pride the following statement in its internal corporate newsletter:
“The Corporate Affairs Division seeks to sustain a reasonable business environment within which the Company can maximise its opportunities to successfully market its products, service its customers and be accepted as a credible corporate entity in the communities in which it does business” (our emphases).
Not for Philip Morris any mission to go full-steam ahead and conquer new markets. Not for them any bold language about the world being its oyster. It just wants to do reasonable business. And its second preoccupation? The poor, spurned and vilified dears just want to be “accepted” as “credible”—not by the whole community, mind you, but just by “the communities in which it does business”. Picture the corporate white board session:
Facilitator: “Now, how do you want the community to see you?”
Corporate affairs team member: “Well, let’s admit it now. We may as well give up on the general community—let’s just see if we can do better with people we sell our products to.”
Facilitator: “OK then . . . what would you like to see happen there?”
Team member: “Hmmm, I’d see it as a big advance if even the people we do business with would accept us as credible.”