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To know or not to know: That is the question

WHILE conducting a workshop on personal organisation for mid-management staff of one local institution a couple of years back, I asked the participants to tell me the mission and vision statements of their institution. None of them could tell me, and yet they all held key technocratic positions in the institution. A few made feeble attempts to remember what they had read “somewhere” but just could not nail the task.
Funny? I guess you would say so, if it were not so serious. Serious, because these were technocrats in the institution, people responsible for making, interpreting and implementing the policy direction of the institution. If anyone in the institution was expected to know its mission and vision, it was this bunch of technocrats. But here they were, ignorant of the key components of their institution’s strategic plan!
What is sad is not so much that these technocrats were ignorant of the mission and vision of their institution, but that there are many others, in many other institutions or organisations, that are in a similar position: they are just in their job to get a salary and do not even bother to know and understand the mission and or vision of the one who gives them their salary. They do not know how their work relates to the goals, mandate, mission and vision of the organisation they work for.
Let us bring the matter nearer home: do you know the mission and vision of the organisation or institution you work for? If you do, would you say you have internalised it? Would you say you actually believe in the mission and vision? Would you say you understand the link between your work and the mission and vision of your employer? When you go to attend a job interview, do you ever bother to find out the mission and vision of your potential employer?
The flipside is for employers or people running institutions and organisations. Does your institution or organisation have a clear mission and or vision? If it does, would you say your staff actually know and understand them? Have you ever bothered to explain the mission and vision of your institution to your staff? Would you say the programmes and activities of your institution are in tandem with – and enhance – your mission and vision?
The trouble with some institutions or organisations, though, is that they do not understand the significance of such things as the mission or vision. Some organisations or institutions have very nice vision statements couched in flattering and lofty language. You just have to look around and check with our service providers. Some have vision statements which claim they aim to become a “world-class provider” of their services or to be “leaders” in their particular field. The reality, though, is different. There is a discrepancy between the claim and the actual service provided. Mediocrity is the daily mantra, chanted by technocrats I prefer to call “mediocrats” because of the inclination towards mediocrity. As a customer you actually feel you are neither respected nor valued, except to the extent that you pay for the service. You are expected to accept mediocrity as normal and worship at the altar of the god of mediocrity.
People forget – it would appear – that a mission or vision statement is more than just a nice piece of paper dressed in flowery language. A mission statement should indeed say what you actually do while a vision statement should say what you actually plan or hope to become. It is a declaration of intent – a to-do document – meant to give you direction in your decisions and programmes. It is not a document meant to show that “we also have” a mission and vision. It is either you know it or you do not.