11 Organizations’ Missions, Visions, and Values

Chapter Table of Contents

This chapter will help us answer an important question: What is the mission of an IE, in other words, why does an IE exist?

Figure 11.1: Organizations’ are Defined by their Mission, Vision, and Values

What is an organization?

Stephen Covey in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says, “Begin with the end in mind” and all organizations should do that. An organization should have a mission statement, that is, a clear, succinct statement of why it exists.

Others suggest this approach to defining mission, or what they call purpose: An effective way to get at purpose is to pose the question “Why not just shut this organization down, cash out, and sell off the assets?” and to push for an answer that would be equally valid both now and one hundred years into the future.

Consider these examples:

  • “The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment.” [1]
  • “Building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” [2]
  • “The FTC’s Bureau of Competition enforces the nation’s antitrust laws, which form the foundation of our free market economy. The antitrust laws promote the interests of consumers; they support unfettered markets and result in lower prices and more choices.” [3]
  • “NFI’s mission is to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.” [4]
  • “The mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is to work for the protection of all human rights for all people; to help empower people to realize their rights; and to assist those responsible for upholding such rights in ensuring that they are implemented.” [5]
  • “The mission of the [Illinois] Department of Corrections is to protect the public from criminal offenders through a system of incarceration and supervision which securely segregates offenders from society, assures offenders of their constitutional rights and maintains programs to enhance the success of offenders’ reentry into society.” [6]
  • “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” [7]
  • “I work to help plastic surgery patients become bold in their quest, informed in their choices, and responsible in their decisions.” [8]
  • “EVRAZ North America is a leading steel manufacturer that produces flat, long and tubular products.” [9]
  • “The mission of Parkview is to provide quality healthcare services and education to improve the health of the people we serve.” [10]
  • “To develop, manufacture and supply scanning components, spindles, optics and Electro Optic modules, while maintaining high quality standards with exceptional customer service.” [11]
  • “LDM sells, manufactures and develops copper alloy rods and billets. It is our aim to achieve worldwide success in our specific niche markets. The organization distinguishes itself through a high customer-orientation and service level, and drive for continuous improvement.” [12]

The following list gives attributes of a good mission statement:

  1. It should state the purpose for which the organization exists.
  2. It should have a narrow focus.
  3. It should be clear.
  4. It should get to the point.
  5. It should be realistic, feasible, and achievable.
  6. It should be a succinct one sentence with few adjectives and adverbs.
  7. It should provide guidance for leadership and employees.
  8. It should let prospective employees know what the company is like.
  9. It should be unique to that organization.

Consider again the examples given above. Most of these are well written. Some are a little wordy, some are more than one sentence, and some incorporate elements of vision and values statements, which we will discuss in the next sections. However, each provides a clear statement about why the organization exists and they all provide guidance to members of the organization about what types of activities it should undertake.

For example, if a prospective client approached LDM to ask if the company can provide lead free copper billets, the company would respond “we can.” But if a prospective client approached them to ask for copper pipes, company would say “we don’t do that.” In fact, companies often refer clients to other companies and often receive referrals back in turn. A group of companies, in a geographical area or in an industry, often know the missions of each company and refer clients to the appropriate company.

Now consider these examples of mission statements, which don’t make clear what the organization does:

  • “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.” [13]
  • “Henderson Manufacturing Company is dedicated to providing high quality, competitively priced products, on time with personalized service. Additionally, we strive to provide a safe and rewarding work environment that recognizes individual achievement and promotes the skills of teamwork and communication.” [14]
  • “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”[15]
  • “The Specialty Mfg. Co. is committed to providing quality, custom solutions which meet our customers’ unique needs. We provide a highly valued experience for our customers and employees by making all our business partnerships enjoyable, professional and profitable.” [16]

If you didn’t know already what these organizations do, these statements don’t help much.

Figure 11.2: Vision and mission statement of LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary

Vision Statement

An organization should also have a vision statement, that is, a statement of how the organization would like to be perceived by its customers. A mission statement gives the reason the organization exists. The vision statement describes what the organization wants to be. What is the destination for this organization?

Consider these examples:

  • “SpaceX’s vision statement is to advance the future.” [17]
  • “To build the largest and most complete Amateur Radio community site on the Internet.” [18]
  • “Clemson [University] will be one of the nation’s top-20 public universities.” [19]

The Alliance for NonProfit Management provides good advice on creating a vision statement:

A vision statement should be realistic and credible, well articulated and easily understood, appropriate, ambitious, and responsive to change. It should orient the group’s energies and serve as a guide to action. It should be consistent with the organization’s values. In short, a vision should challenge and inspire the group to achieve its mission. Profitguide.com quotes Ron Robinson, president of ABARIS Consulting Inc., as saying that a vision statement should paint “a picture of the ideal organization in the future.” It should not look only a few years into the future.

The following list gives attributes of a good vision statement:

  1. It should state what the organization aims to be in the future.
  2. It should allow for growth and development.
  3. It should be inspiring to the employees. Now you can use the adjectives and adverbs that didn’t belong in them mission statement.
  4. It should be clear.

Values Statement

Finally, many organizations have a values statement. Carter McNamara says

Values represent the core priorities in the organization’s culture, including what drives members’ priorities and how they truly act in the organization, etc.

Consider these examples:

  • “Toastmasters Internationals Values
    • Integrity,
    • Respect
    • Service
    • Excellence.” [20]
  • “IBMers value:
    • Dedication to every client’s success
    • Innovation that matters, for our company and for the world
    • Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships” [21]
  • A2Z Computing Services Value Statement:
    • We are responsible to the communities that we represent. To provide them a service that will enhance their online community with a professional, informative and entertaining website.
    • We are responsible to the residents of the communities. To provide them a source of information pertaining to all aspects of their community that are inkeeping with the community’s values and morals.
    • We are responsible to the businesses that advertise on and sponsor our pages. To do our best to ensure the success of their advertising campaign with fair pricing and quality design work.
    • We are responsible to the nonprofit and community organizations. To provide them a method to market and support their missions via our community websites.
    • We are responsible to our employees. To provide them a safe work environment, fair wages, opportunity for advancement, and equal opportunity regardless of sex, race or religion.
    • We are responsible to our subcontractors. To provide them agreeable and timely payment for services and adequate information for completion of the work ordered. We are responsible to our suppliers. To provide them timely payment for products or services and to demand not the impossible but to request the reasonable.
    • We are responsible to the banks and creditors who have loaned us money. To submit payments timely and accurately.
    • We are responsible to our investors. To ensure their investment returns a reasonable profit. [22]

The following list gives attributes of a good values statement:

  1. It should set priorities for the organization by stating what is important.
  2. It should describe how members of the organization interact with each other and with others outside the organization.
  3. It should provide guidance about trade-offs.

Now let’s put mission, vision, and values all together. Collins and Porras found that mission, vision, and values (or what they call ideology) was very important to their visionary companies.

A detailed pair-by-pair analysis showed that the visionary companies have generally been more ideologically driven and less purely profit-driven than the comparison companies in seventeen out of eighteen pairs. This is one of the clearest differences we found between the visionary and comparison companies.

As we have seen, some mission statements just aren’t very good. Also, some organizations make the creation of mission, vision, and statements into a ponderous exercise, without much purpose. I have spent time on mission, vision, and values statements for three reasons.

  1. As Covey says, “begin with the end in mind.” Collins and Porras found that the visionary companies were more likely to focus on an ideology than were the less successful companies.
  2. The IE working for an organization needs guidance – exactly what does this organization do and with what values? What is the goal that this organization’s system is trying to reach? If the organization’s mission isn’t clear the IE will have a hard time knowing what effectiveness means for that organization.
  3. As I will discuss more in Chapter 8 IE Careers, you will be happier if you work for an organization that is compatible with your mission and vision, and especially with your values.
  4. For some humor on the subject of mission and vision statements, try this link: Mission statement generator.

The Industrial Engineers Role in an organization

An organization is created to accomplish some mission. The people in that organization also have a vision of what they want the organization to be. Values govern how the people in the organization will get to that vision.  All organizations contain the following four groups of people:

  1. The founder, directors, president, chief executive officer, or entrepreneur. These people determine the mission of the organization and broadly define the types of processes and values the organization will use in achieving that mission.
  2. Managers. These people set up and monitor the processes that will be used to achieve the organization’s mission.
  3. Workers. These people actually do the work of the organization. They make the products and they deliver the services to customers. They are sometimes called line workers.
  4. Support. These people provide the goods and services the workers need that are not part of the mission of the organization, for example, information technology, accounting, and the cafeteria. They are sometimes called staff workers.

An IE can be in any of the four groups. An IE can start a company or be among the directors of a company, although in such a role the IE probably isn’t doing much industrial engineering but may be using IE skills to be a good CEO. An IE is often a manager or supervisor of workers. IEs are only rarely group 3, the workers. The only way an IE can be a worker, that is, the person who does the work described in the mission of the organization, is if the mission of the organization is to do industrial engineering. Consulting companies, such as Accenture, St. Onge, etc., hire a lot of IEs, but many more jobs are available as CEO, manager, or staff. So most IEs are managers or support staff.

IEs are, first, engineers. All engineers, including IEs, design, but most engineers design physical products or physical structures, objects that you can see, while IEs design systems and you can’t really see a system.

All engineers, even those designing an object (for example, a computer chip, a car, or a bridge), have to think about the system in which that object will function and have to think about the system that will make that object. Every engineer should think about DfX, which is short hand for

  • Design for Manufacturability,
  • Design for Usability,
  • Design for Maintainability
  • Design for Reliability
  • Design for Repairability
  • Design for Recylclability
  • Design for Maintainability

Thus, all engineers are concerned with systems, but IEs always think about systems.

But what exactly does an IE do? Recall the earlier definition of industrial engineering :

The design or improvement of a system of people, machines, information, and money to achieve some goal with efficiency, quality, and safety.

An IE designs and works continually to improve a production system, that is, a system that produces a product or service.  Although we often talk about the fact that engineers solve problems, when an IE solves a problem, the IE also makes a change to the system so that problem never occurs again. If an IE is solving problems all the time (for example, the order for a particular client is late and the IE expedites the order), something is wrong. The IE should be working on the system, not putting out fires.

Exercise

Go to the homepage of a company of which you are a customer.  Can you find their Mission Statement, Vision Statement, and Values Statement?  If not, note that you couldn’t and look at other companies until you can find those statements.  Evaluate the statements using the characteristics of good statements given in this chapter.  Your instructor may ask you to submit your analysis.


  1. http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/our-mission-and-what-we-do
  2. http://my.americanheart.org/professional/Research/AboutOurResearch/OurResearch/AHA-Mission-Vision-and-the-12-Essential-Elements-Guiding-our-Research-Program_UCM_320223_Article.jsp
  3. https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-competition
  4. http://www.fatherhood.org/mission-and-values
  5. http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/MissionStatement.aspx
  6. http://www.illinois.gov/idoc/aboutus/Pages/IllinoisDepartmentofCorrectionsMissionStatement.aspx
  7. http://www.google.com/about/company/
  8. http://www.susangail.com/html/mission-statement.html
  9. http://www.evrazna.com/
  10. http://www.parkviewmc.com/about/serving-our-great-community/
  11. http://www.lincolnlaser.com/company-overview.html
  12. http://www.ldmbrass.com/en/content/2-2-12/mission_statement.htm
  13. https://www.southwest.com/html/about-southwest/
  14. http://www.hendersonmfgco.com/info/info_mission.htm
  15. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/about
  16. http://www.specialtymfg.com/about_us/mission_statement/default.html
  17. https://mission-statement.com/spacex/
  18. http://www.eham.net/about/vision
  19. https://www.clemson.edu/brand/positioning/mission-vision.html
  20. http://www.toastmasters.org/about/our-mission
  21. http://www-03.ibm.com/employment/our_values.html
  22. http://www.a2zcomputing.com/index.php/about-us/20-values-statement

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Introduction to Industrial Engineering by Bonnie Boardman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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