“The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again,” said the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau during the World Economic Forum gathering. We have never seen a world as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous as it is now. Technology is progressing at break-neck speeds, giving rise to new competitors that grow exponentially. Consumer preferences are changing fast due to the entry of the younger generations who voraciously purchase online, forcing many traditional retailers to close shop.
If we examine companies which are losing out in the market, their vision and mission are not aligned to the entirely new environment where they operate. Hence, there’s a need to revisit your organization’s vision and mission, and revise or tweak it as often as possible to make sure it’s attuned to what’s happening in the environment.
Vision and mission serves as the anchor of your organization, from which your objectives, strategies, and execution are all aligned to provide value to customers and the organization’s shareholders. A well-crafted vision and mission drives loyalty across the organization, fosters customer engagements, and guides in the decision making and judgement of business leaders.
In our consulting work when revisiting a company’s vision and mission, I cite the example of Microsoft, a classical firm that lost out on several opportunities in the market due to its “old” VMV.
In 1980, when Bill Gates was at the helm of Microsoft, he had a clear vision: “A computer on every desk and in every home.” This had proven to be a powerful vision which resonated across the organization. Microsoft became a software juggernaut for the next couple of decades, with its operating system and productivity tools running in practically all computers in the world.
In 2000, Bill Gates stepped down and appointed his long-time right-hand man, Steve Ballmer as the new CEO. In a Microsoft conference then, Ballmer upheld the vision/mission of Gates, saying “We’re gonna put a computer on every desk in every home,” and described it as a “compelling vision.”
But the world has changed in early years of 2000. The internet started to flourish globally. Mobile phones led by Nokia was becoming ubiquitous, and computers are becoming smaller and smaller. We saw the growth of new tech players like Google with its Android operating system and device and mobile firms like Samsung, LG, and Apple.
Google had a compelling vision: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” while Apple’s mission under Steve Jobs was “to make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” Both were compelling with no mention of a product or specific device.
When Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007, Ballmer was quoted in an interview that it has “no chance” of gaining significant market share. But iPhone was an instant hit, making Ballmer eat his words.
In an interesting turn of event, Microsoft launched Windows 8 Phone in 2010, which received lukewarm reviews due to its clunky features. During this time, Microsoft’s browser was also losing out to Google’s chrome, until its eventual demise.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, Microsoft posted a net loss of $492 million despite record revenue. Its misses in the past was starting to weigh in.
That’s why in 2013, Ballmer changed Microsoft’s mission: “No more computer on every desk.” The new vision/mission was “to create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.”
Interestingly, Ballmer was still fixated with the device as the media, in a time when cloud computing was at its nascent stage. New companies “born in the cloud” emerged like Salesforce.com, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS had a compelling vision/mission: “to enable developers and businesses to use web services to easily build and be paid for sophisticated, scalable applications.”
But in the same year, Microsoft acquired ailing Nokia’s smartphone business for a whopping $7 billion. It was almost predictably the biggest mistake Ballmer had made. In just two years, Microsoft wrote off $7.6 billion, and Ballmer admitted that the Nokia acquisition was a failure.
Ballmer announced his retirement in 2013. Under his helm, Microsoft significantly lost its share value from 2000 to 2013.
In 2014, Microsoft installed Sataya Nadella as its new CEO. Nadella, a veteran in Microsoft, said that the original mission of Bill Gates “always bothered me.” During this time, new tech competitors are leading the pack — Facebook, Google, Apple, Salesforce.com among others.
That’s why in 2015, Nadella laid out the new mission and vision of Microsoft. Its new mission: “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” Its new vision: “to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.”
In 2015, the new headline was “Microsoft got its groove back.” In 2019, Microsoft breached the $1-trillion market capitalization, as earnings beat expectation.
It truly pay to revisit your vision and mission.
Reynaldo C. Lugtu, Jr. is President & CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation firm. He is the Chairman of the Information and Communications Technology Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at email@example.com