Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Weird Al's "Mission Statement"

Anyone who's ever had to deal with dumb-ass mission statements will appreciate this:


 
I think Al hit ALL the buzzwords.  Apropos o' not much, on one unfortunate occasion I was tapped to participate in writing a mission statement after yet another in a series of endless corporate reorganizations.  That episode was painful beyond belief, aside from being a flaming waste of time.

No, that wasn't in the Air Force.  But there's this about that:

In Full Unapologetic Ranting Cranky Old Man Mode

So, I read over at The Officers Club (ed: a defunct blog) that the USAF has a new mission statement, to wit:
The Air Force changed its mission statement yesterday. The old MS reads:

The mission of the U.S. Air Force is to is to defend the United States through control and exploitation of air and space.

The new mission reads:

The mission of the United States Air Force is to deliver sovereign options for the defense of the United States of America and its global interests -- to fly and fight in Air, Space, and Cyberspace.
I'll begin with the only good thing about the new mission statement: at least The Management incorporated the old, unofficial mission statement: "To Fly and To Fight." So much for the good stuff.

Let's begin the rant.

Just what the HELL is a "sovereign option?" A military option that's exercised by the United States as a sovereign nation? Meaning we don't have to run it by the UN or France first? There's a good idea! Or options that are above all others, e.g., "superior" or "leading," as opposed to "ill-considered" or "secondary." I certainly HOPE we'd offer the country the best air and space defense options we have, to do less is dereliction of duty. Let's not quibble about words, however, let's just come right out and say it: It's STUPID and obfuscatory. Substituting "...deliver sovereign options for the defense of..." for the previous statement's "defend" makes the USAF sound like the freaking Chicago Board of Trade.

Let's pick a nit: how does one fly in "cyberspace?" Or, for that matter, how exactly do we fight in cyberspace? Networked video games? You can say we engage in space flight, but cyberspace-flight? Who are we trying to kid with this word? Including "cyberspace" in the mission statement isn't cutting edge, guys, it looks like what it is: a failed attempt at being cool. I can just hear it in the E-ring: "Air power is just SO passe on its own, we need something more au courant, something that sings! Let's work 21st century technology into the statement somewhere, OK? Get back to me." And so they did, by using a buzz word from the '90s. Shame on you.

And then there's this: Economy of Expression. Whenever you add 12 words to a sentence to express the same idea, you've taken a GIANT step backward. I personally think the old statement's 23 words was too verbose. 35 freaking words is beyond verbose, it's language-crime.

My last point. Anyone want to hazard a guess how many colonels and generals were tasked with writing the new statement? How much time was spent "staffing" the language and briefing it to the boss? I've played in some of these exercises, albeit at a much lower level, and I can tell you with some certainty the answer is: A LOT.

I could think of lots of better ways to burn cycles. Most of 'em have to do with winning the freaking war. Another good use of time would be convincing the doubters (senior DoD guys, congress) we absolutely need the F/A-22, in the numbers we've asked for. I use "we" because it's still MY Air Force, too.

/rant
And then there's this:
How did I miss this?  Specifically, "New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions," mentioned in the post immediately below.  "DWS" prolly has sumthin' to do with employment statistics, job opportunities, and the like but one cannot rightly tell from the pompous title.  I was thinkin' any organization with a title like "Workforce Solutions" just had to be ate up with the dumb-ass.  And I was right.  Witness:
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions is a World-Class, market-driven workforce delivery system that prepares New Mexico job seekers to meet current and emerging needs of New Mexico businesses; and ensures that every New Mexico citizen who needs a job will have one; and every business who needs an employee will find one with the necessary skills and work readiness to allow New Mexico businesses to compete in a global economy.
That's their "vision statement," and they also have a mission statement, of course:
Enhance productivity and competitiveness of New Mexico business and industry by improving the quality and availability of the New Mexico workforce. We will accomplish this through a system that offers universal access to lifelong learning based on relevant local and regional labor market needs, via integrated, customer-focused accountable service partnerships. 
We ALL know any gub'mint org and most Fortune 500 companies need vision and mission statements chock-a-bloc with the latest and greatest in biz-school buzz words.  It's just too damned bad those things don't SAY or MEAN any-gotdamned-thing.  I can recall MANY painful hours working in ad hoc task forces chartered to develop such "statements" from my days with Ross Perot's Excellent Data Company... AFTER Mr. Perot left, of course.
"Mission Statements" might just be one o' my biggest hot buttons. 

19 comments:

  1. Personally I like the Marines mission statement- Kill people and break things... Short and to the point... :-D

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    1. Or the old USAF statement: "To fly and to fight."

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    2. Yep, NO political correctness there... :-)

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  2. I made two coins back when it was un pc. The first coin was the for the Dead Commodore Society. I contributed "Oderint dum Metuant". It was so appropriate it hurts. The second was to my own command coin a long time ago, "Death to the Unwelcome".

    Short and succinct.

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    1. I contributed "Oderint dum Metuant".

      I'd be very proud of that; I can see where it works on a lot o' different levels. I don't remember a single thing from my exercises in this space; they ALL could have been written with this spiffy lil tool.

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    2. Ouch. That was positively evil. :)

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  3. Man, I loved this ALMOST as much as I hate mission statements and corporate buzzwords. I'm surprised some a-hole didn't work in "to grow our defensive capabilities" in their somewhere. And Weird Al is one of my musical heroes, for sure; right up there with Tom Lehrer for sticking pins in overinflated balloons.

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    Replies
    1. I don't hate mission statements.
      I ignore them.

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    2. @ Jim: I like both Al and Tom, too.

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  4. "There", not "their", of course.

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  5. Should I be taking my Mission Statement down?

    Are mission statements supposed to be taken seriously?

    How about mottoes?

    Inquiring minds......

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    1. No, your MS is good stuff. As for taking mission statements seriously... I think corporations HOPE we do. Why else would they waste so much time and energy on producing them? Same for mottoes.

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  6. Corporate Bullshit Generator. http://cbsg.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/live

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    1. Now I know where Big Bid'niz gets this stuff.

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  7. I've never really understood the need for mission statements. Just a simple motto should be more than enough.

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    1. I'm with you, Brian. I think the mission statement is more of an internal thing, though.

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  8. ANY organization--govt or civilian--which has to call itself "World Class" (as opposed to being described as such by some admiring analytical neutral third party) ISN'T.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask.