Your Mission Statement Must Be More Than Words

Mylan’s Mission

At Mylan, we are committed to setting new standards in health care. Working together around the world to provide 7 billion people access to high quality medicine, we:

  • Innovate to satisfy unmet needs
  • Make reliability and service excellence a habit
  • Do what’s right, not what’s easy
  • Impact the future through passionate global leadership

Doing what’s right is sacred to us. We behave responsibly, even when nobody’s looking. We set high standards from which we never back down. This uncompromising ethical stance helps to keep our products pure, our workers safe, and the environment clean.

Hollow words to say the least

Those arethe mission and values statements of Mylan, the owner of the severe allergy treatment, EpiPen. Mylan is in the news a lot lately concerning its six-fold price increase of EpiPen, while at the same time senior executives were taking a huge pay raise.

EpiPenApparently the C-suite thought no one was looking. No one looked at the words of the company’s values and mission; their decisions were not filtered through that prism.

Strategy is important but so are your mission & values

While strategy is important, adherence to a company mission and values is just as important. It should set the tone, be the north star of any organization. In other words, you should live, eat and breathe that statement.

When you look back through the annals of business history at epic failures, read what those businesses said was their mission, and what their values statements say. For the most part, there is a 180-degree difference in what was said and what was done

From the leadership team down to the lowest person on the totem pole, an organization must hold true to its mission and its values. They should not be just words.

Apparently Mylan did not refer back to their guiding mission when these decisions were made.

Clarity of vision

So many leaders stop with simply having that vision on a webpage; kind of like that most overused phrase, “People are our greatest asset.” There must be complete clarity around both your mission and values. They should be the guide when decisions are made. When in doubt go back to those statements. Still in doubt, go back again.

Words matter, whether it is your corporate brand or your personal mission statement. We all should be anchored by principles.

It is not enough to print it, web it, and talk about it often. Because if all that is just talk and no action, it rings hollow and that is when you veer off course and start acting out of sync with who you said you were. No one put those words in your mouth. In the end you are not only lying to yourselves, but are being disingenuous with customers about the true intentions of the company.

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When you turned on the TV in the past few weeks or read the news online, there was the Mylan brand plastered over every outlet. Whether they will ever get that brand value back and the general stink away from their organization is anyone’s guess.

This is not a drive by

There is something for all of us to learn from this fiasco. Whether it is your organization or yourself, we must all stand for something. Every leader of every organization should go back and read and reread the words they chose for their company.

Create a discussion within your leadership circle about the importance of leading the business, guiding decisions and fully understanding the role your mission and values statements play in your corporate as well as your personal lives.

In the end, what we do when no one is looking is as important as what we do when the klieg lights are on.

These two questions are just as important as your strategy:

  • How do we make decisions at our company?
  • How do we behave and act, collectively and individually?

In the end, words do matter.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.