The Information Technology team within most corporations is critical to a company’s long term success. It houses critical data, drives the analytical capabilities of other departments and plays a crucial role in the communication network of the company. Yet time and again it faces the challenge of budget reductions in a manner that seems both shortsighted and unfair. Often, the biggest challenge IT departments face during budget reviews is proving their value to the bottom line of their company. One novel and underused technique for doing this is for IT to prove that it is vital to the success of the organization’s mission.
Yet, Mission Statements are a paradox: the most popular management tool of the past twenty-five years and yet often the least respected. Chances are your company has one — framed nicely in the lobby perhaps — but can you recite it? Word for word? Can everyone in your IT department? If not, how can you defend your budget and your department’s role within the company?
You may be tempted to dismiss your firm’s mission statement as corporate window-dressing with little relevance to your day-to-day business life – but do so at your peril. More than two decades of studying business success and failure have taught me that every company, regardless of size, needs to have a formally written statement of its mission. But not all mission statements are created equal. A good mission statement should identify your organization’s unique and enduring ‘reason for being’. It should make it clear to employees at all levels what it is the firm is trying to accomplish and why customers would want to do business with you. And a great mission statement will guide the day-to-day actions and decisions of everyone within the company and result in a more focused allocation of valuable time and resources.
All my research indicates that mission statements can make a positive difference to an organization’s bottom line results, provided they are designed and implemented properly.
But leaders of IT should also consider building a departmental mission statement — one that unmistakably aligns with their corporate one. Unfortunately, you may not feel comfortable leading such an important undertaking simply because it is not one of your core competencies. That’s very understandable. Great leaders, however, never hesitate to get help when they need it. Perhaps considering the following four guidelines will assist you. Be warned, though. If you fail to follow any of them, you are probably missing out on some of the advantages that a mission statement can bring your department.