Reviewing the mission, vision and values statements of successful companies provides a look into how these organizations see their purpose through the road maps they have created for themselves to achieve such renown. The focus of this review of Guiding Statements is the chemical company, Ashland Global Holdings*.
Ashland currently ranks 658 on the Fortune 1,000 list, but if you filter for growth in profits, they are ranked 4th, with a year-over-year profit growth of more than 11,300%. As with other unfathomable growth, this has less to do with increased sales and related net profit and more to do with share-related activities. Still, let’s take a look at their Guiding Statements.
Ashland’s Guiding Statements are found at www.ashland.com/about/ashland-way. The Statements are followed by reviews with commentary.
Ashland’s Vision Statement
Our vision is to make a better world by providing creative solutions through the application of specialty ingredients and materials.
Ashland’s Mission Statement
Our mission is to develop practical, innovative, and elegant solutions to complex problems in applied chemistry, always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and advancing the competitiveness of our customers across diverse industries.
Ashland’s Values Statement (Listed as the “Ashland Way”)
“Our way is to respect, protect, and advance the people we work with, companies we serve, shareholders who invest in our future, communities we’re a part of, and planet we share.
Ashland lists additional values below the “Way.” These are Efficacy, Usability, Allure, Integrity, Profitability.
Finding the Statements
Although found properly under the “About Us” menu of the company’s web page, the company has placed its Vision, Mission and Values Statements under the link entitled, “Ashland Way.” I may have been complicating things in my own mind, but I assumed “Ashland Way” was a cutesy name for either a product line, a “Memory Lane” time line, or even the physical location of the company headquarters. Changing it to “The Ashland Way” might be one way to clarify the menu item.
When it comes to posting your Guiding Statements, it’s typically best to be direct with the public and call it some variation of “Mission, Vision and Core Values Statements” or “Core Beliefs” or “Core Guiding Statements.” It usually would not be a problem listing your statements under a name like, “Ashland Way,” but in this case, Ashland has 12 drop down options under its “About Us” menu, so it takes a bit of surfing to eventually find what you are looking for.
Review of the Vision Statement
Listing the Vision Statement first (or even at all) shows that Ashland has created an external statement describing how they want to make an impact on the world. “Make the world a better place” is a pretty direct description of how Ashland envisions making a difference in the world, which is actually the object of most Mission Statements. It works as a Vision Statement here because Ashland also identifies what the company ultimately aspires to do in a general sense, followed by a brief statement of how they intend to make it happen.
Vision Statements, internal or external, are about where the company is headed and how it intends to get there. Most internal Vision Statements will identify for the organization, its leadership and its staff the objectives they should strive for in the coming 3 to 5 years.
Review of the Mission StatementThe strategic planning committee at Ashland did well to keep its mission statement to a single sentence, which is critical if you want your stakeholders to remember it. But what a sentence! The statement is a lot to take in and is very dense.
The Mission properly refers to “problems” to address and how the company intends to address the problems (“pushing boundaries”). The Statement also orients the organization toward a specific population (“our customers”).
My two suggestions would be to, first, remove the unnecessary complexity added by “across diverse industries.” Readers of the Mission Statement could already assume customers might come from a variety of industries. KIS.
Second, I might argue that the Mission of Ashland is not actually “to develop practical, innovative, and elegant solutions” but to advance the competitiveness of our customers.” A simple reorganization of the Mission Statement could read:
“Our mission is to advance our customers’ competitiveness by pushing boundaries of what’s possible through developing practical, innovative and elegant solutions to their complex problems.”
Which is Ashland’s purpose for being and what is its drive for relevance in the future? Developing solutions or advancing its customers’ competitiveness? One will be its purpose and the other the method by which it achieves its purpose.
Review of the Values Statement
Effective Values Statements identify the principles by which all organizational stakeholders can make decisions and build programs according to the same priorities. The “Ashland Way” does just that. What considerations should Ashland executives, managers, staff, and board members keep in mind when making decisions, large and small? What questions should they ask themselves?
Simple. The Ashland Way leads to these critical questions: How will this decision, project, or activity show respect for, protect or advance those with whom we work? Will it improve our people, our customers, our shareholders, our communities and/or our planet?
By even calling it the “Ashland Way,” Ashland provides a great example of how Values should guide all decision making processes.
The additional list of guiding values below the “Ashland Way” further clarify how the company believes it can create practical, innovative and elegant solutions for its customers. Each of the values on the list precedes the phrase, “…of our customer’s products.” Obviously, Ashland cares a great deal about “advancing the competitiveness of [its] customers,” as noted in its mission statement. Its elegant solutions should be guided by questions such as, “does this solution amplify the efficacy, refine the usability, add to the allure, ensure the integrity, and/or improve the profitability of our customer’s product?”
ConclusionA Classic Thumbs Up
Ashland has done a bang up job putting together some very clear and direct Guiding Statements. I would assume one of the reasons Ashland made it onto the Fortune 1,000 list and the reason it nearly tops the list for fastest growing profitability involves making these Guiding Statements well known and ensuring they are well used by all stakeholders, from the board and executives to the management and staff. Making such statements clear and present to its vendors and customers is another way to increase the Statements’ effectiveness.
There is no agreement or understanding between Todd R. Christensen Consulting and the company this review focuses on. There has been and will be no compensation or other consideration exchanged. This review is for educational purposes only and should not be considered an endorsement of the company’s products or services.