As I stood in line at the airport this week, I briefly forgot what TSA stood for. It happens, especially when we’re assaulted by acronyms on a daily basis. I was reminded of my corporate years, when we had great fun providing counterfeit names for them. Thus, the CFM program – Customer Focused Marketing – devolved to “Can’t Find a Manager” since most of them were in meetings discussing CFM. I became so adept at humorous repurposing that I suggested management allow me to vet new ones before use so they’d be prepared for the tweak. Then mission statements became the flavor of the day. Fred had a hard time keeping a straight face when a business owner excitedly announced that he had three of them. Even when I was an executive I couldn’t recite the company’s precious mission statement. When a new online ordering system was unveiled in a manger’s meeting, the first thing that came up on the screen was that mission statement. A customer would have to click on it to get to the e-commerce page. I told the CEO that the only way that made sense was if we were selling mission statements, and we weren’t.*
I seriously believe in the power or words or I wouldn’t be writing this. But the above is offered as a caution. It’s wise to not fall too in love with the words or acronyms or programs or initiatives that you use in your business. I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea to have a mission statement or to be aware of and promote the latest trends in management, but I think that these things – like salt on a well-cooked dish – should be used only sparingly as guidelines and not be treated as something sacrosanct. When moving down a new operational path, an owner needs to be willing to listen and discuss these words and not just point to them as a way to deflect challenge or not have dialogue, as if citing them is all that’s needed. The words can provide the framework, but human beings still have to do the heavy lifting.
*Reason #53 why CEOs sometimes found me to be just a tad too much.