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Mission statements as wastes of time

Someone needs to convince me that a summary of a law department’s aspirations – aka mission statement – makes any provable difference to the department’s effectiveness. Common in business they may be (See my posts of May 14, 2005 and June 9, 2007: Bain survey results.), but of unproven value they certainly are (See my posts of April 8, 2005: impossible to work with; Aug. 3, 2005: make them part of daily behavior; Aug. 3, 2005: “alignment with clients”; Oct. 21, 2005: three tests for their usability; Oct. 31, 2005: a link to corporate strategy; and March 2, 2008: mix targets and behavior change.).

Given the constant change of business, only the highest-level bombast can pretend to serve for long. How many mission statements go on about “world-class law department” (See my post of Aug. 22, 2006.)?

In the end, after much time and effort (See my posts of Jan. 15, 2006 and Aug. 3, 2005: mistakes made developing mission statements and the knowledge curse.) I fear it is full of sound and fury.

After all, every law department can adopt virtually the same flummery (See my posts of March 17, 2006; virtually identical statements; yet Sept. 4, 2005: all general counsel think their department is unique in the issues it faces.) and solemnly pronounce the same nostrums (See my post of Jan. 18, 2007: fortune cookie recommendations.). Mission statements can be churned out without thought (See my posts of Aug. 26, 2005: an Orwellian satire; and Feb. 24, 2007: a one-size-fits-all statement of values.). Summaries of policies and practices have more traction (See my post of Sept. 5, 2007.).

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