Entrepreneur Mission, vision, ethics: entrepreneurs, come back down to earth!

Mission, vision, ethics: entrepreneurs, come back down to earth!

At the end of the XXand century, corporations have been accused of being too business-oriented, reducing the world to their balance sheet and focusing on short-term profits. Summoned to put an end to this myopia, they have all (at least for the largest of them) adopted a radically opposed discourse. In doing so, they only didgive up one excess to fall into another.

Now, companies compete in ambitions. They speak, urbi et orbi, only of their crushing responsibilities, of the innumerable battles they wage. They embrace all the causes, reciting in the smallest of their communications an endless string of values ​​which they claim to be inhabited.

In many commercials, you often have to stay very attentive to understand, exactly, what is sold, as the message rather insists on infinitely less down-to-earth concepts. Fashion has an ethical emphasis. A company would feel dishonored if it did not recite in extenso the catechism of the virtues of time, spread out like badges on a boy scout shirt.

Conferences become “inspiring moments”

The concept of “mission” constitutes the acme of this new practice. It is no longer enough to sell yogurts, but to provide “health”. We no longer organize a trip, but a “self-renewal”. We no longer offer vacations, but we simply promise “happiness” – in the same way, moreover, that we no longer attend a conference, which would be a jerk, but that we “share a moment inspiring”. Both internally and vis-à-vis their stakeholders, companies no longer admit the product they market except lip service.

Certainly, it is good to sublimate one’s activity by linking it to things greater than itself. Obviously, the company can no longer act as if it had no impact on its environment and society. She must care. But the romanticism of “missions” and “visions” often contrasts starkly with the prosaic reality of tasks and products. Could this not be one of the causes of the mocking detachment of many actors in the company vis-à-vis contemporary antiphons, obliged to say like the others but think no less?

By pretending to be what it is not, or to do much more than it does, the company does not redeem itself. She further away from consumers and its employees forced to pretend to believe it.

Leave the saving of the world to the superheroes

What if the real mission of the company was, quite simply, to do what it does well, no matter how simple its product? The company should fantasize less about its contribution to saving the world or to the progress of humanity. The superheroes take care of it. Whether it’s a bar of soap or a cooked dish, she should place her honor, like yesterday, in the quality of what it offers. Rather than wanting to do good, may she just do good.

Employees will also find their account. We have insisted so much on the great fundamental quests that occupy the entire space of representations that we have forgotten this very simple conception that a worker once had: he placed his honor in a job well done. No more no less. A profession, however banal, was also a social status and a source of pride.

The discourse on missions attempts to re-enchant work at a time of bureaucratization (in the Weberian sense) of the economy which has emptied work of its meaning. But it is often only a smokescreen. Against the soulless jobs of messianic multinationals, it’s time to rediscover the simple pleasure of contributing to a beautiful product and being a respected professional.

That companies pride themselves less on grand designs, and that they seek honestly and modestly to deliver the best product at the best price. They there gain credibility and internal buy-in.

The author: Olivier Babeau is a French professor, economist and essayist

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