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This chapter is from the book


Most business units or departments have a mission statement, and most business leaders have had to craft one or two in their career. The goal of a mission statement is to capture the overall purpose or aim of your organization, or to state the reason your organization exists. For example, Business Computing Solutions lists the following mission statement on its Web site:

Our goal is to seamlessly integrate with our clients to provide I/T Business Solutions that empower our clients and its people to achieve its business missions.

Q. Moosavi, president

In other words, the mission of Business Computing Solutions is to help customers use technology to achieve their mission.

In Managing the Professional Service Firm, David Maister reveals the following insight:

One of the most interesting discoveries in my consulting work has been a fact that (apparently) every professional-service firm in the world has the same mission statement, regardless of the firm's size, specific profession, or country of operation. With varying refinements of language, the mission of most professional firms is:

To deliver outstanding client service; to provide the fulfilling careers and professional satisfaction for our employees; and to achieve financial success so that we can reward ourselves and grow.

The commonality of this mission does not detract from its value. Simply put, each professional firm must satisfy these three goals of service, satisfaction, and success if it is to survive.2

In principle, we agree with this conclusion: The financial success of a PS business is based on meeting the needs of both customers and highly talented employees. However, when the PS firm is folded under the umbrella of a product company, the rules change. The previous mission statement will not serve a product-based PS firm well. In fact, this mission statement will lead the new service unit directly into horrible internal conflicts. So, let us build on what's there.

When crafting the mission statement for a PS organization that is part of a product company, there are three key items to consider: format, audience, and overarching objective.


First, let's review the issue of format. Janel Radtke writes that mission statements should:3

  • Express your organization's purpose in a way that inspires support and on-going commitment

  • Motivate those who are connected to your organization

  • Be articulated in a way that is convincing and easy to grasp

  • Use proactive verbs to describe what your organization does

  • Be free of jargon

  • Be short enough so that anyone connected to your organization can readily repeat it

A mission statement for a PS organization should adhere to all the guidelines applied to crafting any good mission statement. If the mission statement your executive team crafts is not crisp, compelling, and convincing, it probably needs some work.


The second issue to consider is the audience for the mission statement. Is this mission statement to be viewed internally or externally? There is a story that states Nike has a very simple mission statement: Crush Reebok. However, if you review their corporate Web site, this mission statement is nowhere to be found. If this mission statement for Nike does indeed exist somewhere, we would call this an "internal" mission statement. In other words, the audience for this mission statement includes those within the walls of the company. An "external" mission statement, on the other hand, is one that would be shared with customers. At first, your focus should be on the internal mission statement and should address the new service entity's mission from a strictly company-oriented perspective. Later, an external mission statement can be developed that is targeted at your organization's customers.

Overarching Objective

The third, final, and most important issue when crafting a mission statement for a product-based PS firm is the main purpose of the serv-ice unit. Before finalizing the mission statement, the executive management team needs to agree on one key point: What is the overarching purpose of this new business unit? What is the purpose that overrides all other objectives? What is the fundamental reason this business unit has been created at the company? Let's look at some potential answers to this critical question. The overarching purpose of your new PS organization might be to:

  • Drive/sell the product and service portfolio of the company, or

  • Ensure high customer satisfaction, or

  • Maximize profits (for its own P&L), or

  • Assist in developing leading-edge solutions for key customers

In reality, your executive team may want to see the PS unit fulfill the entire list. But what is the primary objective? The executive team must call this out at the beginning. If not, conflicts will occur. Geoffrey Moore, the technology-marketing expert quoted earlier, addresses this issue of mission directly:4

True, they (professional services) are also expected to generate revenue, and true, this revenue does count on the bottom line, but that is not their primary value-creating function. It is, instead, to contribute to the greater good.

The challenge facing this organization's management team is to charter it correctly, to make absolutely clear what is core and what is context. For independent consulting firms, revenue is core; for professional-services organizations (that are part of a product company), revenue is context!

Let's review a simple example to drive the point home. A key customer is using your PS team to implement a new solution. During implementation, the customer determines that they are better off using a competitor's product in the solution as opposed to yours. What should your service unit do? If the prime mission of your service unit is to maximize its own profits, it should probably continue with implementation to get the service revenue. Also, if the prime mission is to ensure customer satisfaction, the service staff should not disengage. But what if the primary mission is to maximize the company portfolio? Why then would the service unit deploy a solution on someone else's platform? It wouldn't. Here is another quick example to highlight the point. What if the second largest customer for your company wants to engage the services team—at a hefty discount. Does the service unit comply or find more profitable pastures? Once again, the primary mission would guide that decision.

Mission and the SAR Factor

Now you can see how critical the issue of setting the overarching purpose has become. When a primary mission is put in place, it can effectively be used as a compass to navigate tricky seas. In the introduction, we discussed a variable called the service alignment risk factor, or the SAR factor. This concept comes into play when you are attempting to align your PS business unit as closely as possible to the rest of your company. Remember, professional services are the first services you are offering that are not directly and clearly linked to your core products. This phenomenon creates the potential for a dangerous gap between what professional services you offer and how well they fit into your overall product and service portfolio. This potential gap is demonstrated in Figure 2-1.

Figure 2-1Figure 2–1 Mission and the SAR factor.

There are strategies you can employ to greatly reduce the risk of creating a PS unit that does not fit synergistically into your overall business portfolio. If you don't manage this risk factor, you can create a distanced PS unit that does little to drive forward your overall business objectives. A clear, agreed-upon mission statement is one of the tethers that will anchor your PS organization to the rest of the company portfolio. However, without it, you can expect many stormy conversations in the future—conversations where your VP of professional services must disagree with a sales executive regarding what should be done for customer so and so. Without the overarching mission in place for serv-ices, the VP of PS and the VP of sales will wrestle over the "right" thing to do. They both will have opinions, they both will have valid points, but they might never come to agreement. You can also expect the real possibility of a business unit that is profitable in its own right, but has alienated itself from other key business units.

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