Most vision or mission statements are hollow, uninspirational artifacts. Sloganeering, as it were: they sound good, but fail to mobilize a team or company. To illustrate my point, let me share a great story — the opposite of what I have just described: The NASA Janitor.
This story, I’m sure, is part legend, part folklore, part false, and part truth. Nevertheless, the spirit of the message is clear and correct:
In 1969 when the US was planning a trip to the moon, the major TV networks had crews stationed at NASA headquarters in Houston, Texas, to cover the lead up to the launch. One day the reporters and camera crews had some down time while waiting for the NASA officials to arrive at the press room. As they passed the time milling about the halls, someone noticed a janitor coming toward them with a broom and thought, Well, nothing else to do, why don’t we film some B’ footage to have on hand. A reporter happened to have a microphone handy, so he said to the approaching janitor: So, what’s your job at NASA?
As the story goes, the fellow paused, leaned on his broom, looked thoughtfully into the camera and said, My job is to help us get to the moon.
When the hearts and minds of everybody in the organization is moving toward the same end, then you know the companies’ mission has become a living and breathing inspirational catalyst for good.
No hero-worship or elevating certain individuals to the status of super-hero: everybody chips in to the best of their ability, in their appointed stations in the company. Just like the Janitor above — he felt an inner conviction that his job — regardless of functional duties — was to get us to the moon.
Inspirational; change the worldview of a people, then the behavior will follow — a powerful catalyst for good.
My job is to help us get to the moon
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