“Our mission statement is to…”

I walk into a room, it’s a meeting room that anyone who has been to any corporate office anywhere on the planet would recognise. There’s a long table with chairs around it, at one end are a couple of large flat screens attached to the wall at shoulder height, the theme is wood and black leather.

There’s a business casual dress code so all the men are wearing shirts; the one lady is wearing a trouser suit.

Most of the people in the room are known to me but a couple of people are here to present who I don’t recognise. During the meeting introductions I find out that we are to receive a presentation from a vendor and they are the vendor’s technical sales representatives. At this point I’m already trying to line up a set of excuses for leaving the room, but I’m here now and an early exit would seem rude.

After the usual faffing about getting the screens to work properly one of the technical sales representatives moves to the first slide from which he reads these words:

Our mission statement is to…

Then it happens. It used to happen occasionally but recently something more permanent has happened in my brain, a connection has been broken, or perhaps a new connection has been made, I’m not sure which. On hearing the words “Our mission statement is to…” my brain experiences a complete blank out. I may as well be looking at a white screen and listening to white noise.

It doesn’t matter what the person says after these words I’m not going to hear them. If they said “Our mission statement is to undertake best-practice collaboration with polka-dot elephants enabling franchised delivery of cutting-edge chilli-marzipan rabbits to ethical nomadic muskrats in Uzbekistan” I wouldn’t know – I’ve gone to my blank place.

If I’m honest I’ve struggled to write this post because every time I write those words my brain goes off to the blank place and I have to focus quite hard to come back again.

I’d like to be able to describe the blank place to you, but I can’t, because it is just blank; there’s nothing there. I’m not sure when this behaviour started, I suspect that it’s been building up over time.

My theory about the cause is that it’s a self-preservation mechanism; even when I could hear mission statements I found them excruciating and I think my brain is trying to protect itself from any more pain. In my experience most mission statements may as well be a random selection of verbs and adjective, many of them are impossible to understand and the rest don’t say anything worth saying.

(If you want to have some fun with creating your own mission statement from random verbs and adjectives  the Mission Statement Generator does precisely that.)

Why do most mission statements fail? It’s only my opinion, but I think it’s because they don’t tell a story. We are story people, we’ve collected and retold them for millennia, they engage with our minds and our emotions, they communicate a message.

I’ve been to many sessions where someone has given me their mission statement and then told me a story. I can remember many of the stories – I can’t remember any of the mission statements. Life would be so much easier if they just left the mission statement out.

Am I the only one that this happens to? Do I need to seek out some medical help?

You might also like: The parable of Ray’s Helicopter Company.

The words “Our vision statement is to…” have exactly the same effect.

Desktop Scatterer, Folder Fanatic and File Dropper

As I walked around the office this morning I was struck by a colleague’s desktop on their PC. It was absolutely full of file icons, completely covered. I’ve seen this phenomena before but never to such an extreme. I found myself recoiling at what I saw as a complete and utter mess. You may have guessed by my tone that I’m not a desktop scatterer.

My desktop has 16 icons on it; all of them from applications that have decided that I need a desktop icon. Sometimes I delete them, but many will make their way back at a later date normally after an update. All of my files are in folders in a hierarchical structure; I am a bit of a folder fanatic.

There are other people who can never find anything, they seem to have an approach of dropping files into all sorts of places in the hope that they can find them later. There are times when the disorganised side of my personality turns me into file dropper also.

I’ve never really understood the desktop scatterer, I suspect that scatterer is a bit derogatory and the desktop is highly optimised to the way that they work. I understand the file dropper a bit, sometimes you just want to get on with things without having to think about organising what you are doing. Occasionally my folder fanaticism gets out of control and I put files within folders, within folder, within folders, within folders and can’t find anything.

The joy of being a folder fanatic or a file dropper is that there are now so many places to create folders and drop files available: local disks, usb drives, network drives, DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, SharePoint, Wiki, email, Box, ShareFile, etc.

We all think and work differently and there are (believe it or not) advantages and disadvantages to each of these approaches.

File structures and systems are going to be around for some time because they are so flexible and enable us to optimise how we work. Perhaps it’s time, though, that we started helping each other to be as productive as possible in their use, what works for you?

Talking Technology Talk

In each area of life we love to create language to describe what we are doing. As technology people we are masters at acronyms and words that make no sense in normal life.

The image below is of a card that I was given and it illustrates how impenetrable our language can be:

“Once again, these features are available now and you can start using them today.”

Reading through an AWS Official blog post today I was struck by the power of the closing statement:

Once again, these features are available now and you can start using them today.

We have become used to continuous change that we forget how profound a statement it is.

For much of my working life I’ve lived through the era of packaged application deployment. Hundreds and thousands of devices, running hundreds of applications with each needing to be updated individually. These updates required terabytes of storage and gigabits of network bandwidth.

Changing a large application required weeks of planning and protracted project timelines. Only then would devices join the network and receive the required updates, even so success rates were variable, at best.

These changes were so massive that organisations would only do a few a year.  The organisational impact of moving any faster was just too high, you would want to finish one before you started the next one.

The move to Software-as-a-Service and Utility Services enables a world of continuous change. It’s no longer valid to talk about version x.y of something when it’s different every day.

Organisations can stop worrying about the impact of change and focus on the value of change.

The post itself is about an impressive set of enhancements to Amazon’s WorkSpaces offering, but the real power is in the ability to deliver the benefits without friction and without protracted deployment projects.

“start using them today” are very powerful words for organisations seeking to keep up with the competition.