I criticize mission (aka vision, value) statements as ethereal [See my post of April 8, 2005.], but Stanton Marris, a London consultancy, suggests a method – obvious and logical after reading it – to salvage from them some usefulness.
According to pamphlet No. 7 (at pg. 4), Stanton Marris would urge a law department to “say literally what [the department] would see if the values were being lived.” They even give an example of how a British law firm, Addleshaw Goddard, developed its guiding principles and undertook activities to translate the principles into practice.
Take the stock mission statement phrase “provide cost-effective, pro-active guidance.” To embed that gospel phrase, to make it real and operational for a law department, could mean variously to (1) gather benchmarks, (2) check with clients on major outside counsel expenditures, (3) attend strategy meetings of clients, (4) monitor fully-loaded internal billing rates, (5) track time and bill it to clients, (6) prepare training courses for clients, (7) send out summaries of changes in the law, and many other day-to-day steps.
The devil is in the details. Each tangible action, like these, lets the department track, measure, and encourage behavior that spells out the mission/value/principles statement. The more real a law department makes its exhortatory aspirations, the more the high-sounding goals will make a difference.