Microsoft’s new ‘mission’ still isn’t a very good ‘purpose’ (part 2)

Part 1 of this story examined Microsoft’s new mission statement spelled out in a company-wide email from Mircrosft CEO Satya Nadella.

“Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

A summary of my issues were as follows:

  • Empowerment & accessibility are cost of entry for the tech cateogry
  • It is impossible to be all things to all people (and all organizations for that matter)
  • The words “achieve” and “more” lack context (That is to say, we cannot achieve more than that which we set out to achieve. And so, “more” in this sense becomes motive — or as the mighty Skeletor demonstrates, more becomes MOAR!!!)

Now, if Microsoft is sincere in updating their mission (and I suppose we have to grant that “if”), then the statement with which Microsoft wishes to express it must also be sincere.

But it does not occur, you see, to regard their large-cap multinational technology company on a mission other than empowering people to achieve more. You can see it reflected in the taglines of Microsoft’s core customers from recent years.

This, I suggest, is where we must substitute “purpose” for “mission.” Because a mission has a very serious limitation. That limitation is that it is finite. We go on a mission. In gaming, when you complete the mission faster, you get a higher score. When we talk about our behavior on the mission, we say things are “mission critical.” When it’s over, we say “mission accomplished.” And if it does not end as expected, then the mission has “failed.” So naturally, why would anyone be willing to sign up for an endless mission.

Yet that is precisely what we mean to create when we develop our new mission statement. It is evergreen. It is reliable. And it is designed to help sustain growth, create value, and generate the capital returns necessary to keep long-term shareholders from becoming short-term activists.

Now, you can say, using the mission statement has proved very useful to us — it has given us such companies we have. But at the same time, it has proved too much of a good thing. At the same time, we’ve become so fascinated with it, that we confuse the company as it is, with the company as it is defined through, expressed by, and codified in the mission statement.

We need then, a new way for Microsoft to express their intent. To state their purpose. Because purpose, you see, is not linear. It’s not direct. You do not go on a purpose. There are not behaviors that are “purpose critical.” You can’t accomplish a purpose or report on its status. You have purpose. Like the Tao or Zen, in not getting it, you get it. Where the mission is defined, the purpose is squishy and soft — full of the “wiggly” as Alan Watts might say — because you feel it. It’s a happening.

Now, here we are, psychically starved it seems to figure out what the purpose should be for a $366 billion technology company. Grasping for it; seeking it out. But what is it? Well I’ll tell you.

For the people helping to define what “disruption” actually is, it’s top of mind:

A company is nothing more (and nothing less) than three things: people, processes and purposes.

It’s literally filling the air during unfiltered back-and-forths between two tech-bros, here and here. It is hidden between the lines of a weekly newsletter. It’s the cover story. It’s the click-bait. Even the pope is blogging about it. You discuss it with your friends in regards to Uber, Airbnb, and the sharing economy. It’s everything you love to hate about the new masters of the universe.

And may I introduce you to a better purpose for Microsoft.


To be the beacon of justice in technology

Because Silicon Valley might have invented the parts, but it was Redmond that put a computer on every desk. Because we don’t rely on distraction revenue as a business model. Because we are not a luxury computer brand.

Justice. Equality. Fairness. You can express it anyway you want, but you’re talking about the same thing. Now go on the record with it, and you might be surprised just how fast people start yelling into the sky, “I have the power!”

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