Meaningless Vision Does More Harm Than Good

I had the wonderful fortune to drive from Seattle to L.A. and back a couple of weeks ago. You see a lot of nothing and do a lot of thinking in those 40 hours. Spotted on a truck was this statement:

Providing customer solutions through trust and innovation.

Truck on Highway

OK, so now the quiz: what does this company do? The answer is at the end (no peeking). Your choices:

  • Computer systems integration
  • General freight handling
  • Food services distribution
  • Electrical contractor supply

I’m a huge believer in visions. I think every organization and every project needs one. You simply can’t have too much focus on a team — people really need to know what they are doing and why. It’s not optional. It’s so important the better part of a chapter of my upcoming book is devoted to it.

But quality is at least as important as quantity. Just opening the corporate buzzword dictionary and choosing at random doesn’t work. Take this example. Please.

There just is nothing there. What the heck does this mean? How does this inspire? What is a “customer solution”? How does this help me do my job? Can I make any decisions based on it? What would I choose to do or not do based on this statement? I have a lot more to say about visions, why they are important, and how to develop and use them. But let’s just make one thing clear, this statement is worse than nothing.

The CEO and his team spent months and thousands of consultant dollars to come up with this?

If you are an employee at this company, this statement is painful. Not only does it not mean anything, you can be sure it was rolled out with fanfare and lots of sincerity. You probably sat there at the announcement and went “huh?” You couldn’t believe what you were hearing. You thought: “the CEO and his team spent months and how many thousands of consultant dollars to come up with this? What a waste.” You wondered why they didn’t put the energy into fixing the stupid products we sell, or the health care plan, or the silly payroll glitches, or heck, even the toilet in the bathroom. You are deeply depressed.

This vision is worse than no vision. At least with no vision, the employees don’t know the management team is a bunch of idiots. As the old saying goes: better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Much more on visions to follow. But in the mean time, your answer: it was a food services company. They move boxes of Cheetohs from the warehouse to the grocery store. Where are the “customer solutions” there? What “innovation”? Sheesh…