Google's HR boss explains why the company can never live up to its mission statement, and doesn't want to

GoogleJeff J. Mitchell/GettyGoogle’s mission is intentionally impossible.

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998, they gave it a straightforward mission statement: “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

It’s crucial, says Google’s SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock in his new book “Work Rules!,” that the company can never actually achieve this mission, “as there will always be more information to organise and more ways to make it useful.”

Bock compares Google’s mission statement to those of other companies. He doesn’t criticise them, but notes how different they are from Google’s.

For instance, take these sample passages:

  • IBM: “We translate these advanced technologies into value for our customers.”
  • McDonald’s: “We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.”
  • Procter & Gamble: “Consumers will reward us with leadership sales, profit and value creation.”

Bock writes that Google’s mission has no mention of profit, market, customers, shareholders, or users, and it doesn’t explain itself. It is, as he says, “a moral rather than a business goal,” and one that is forever something to chase.

“This creates motivation to constantly innovate and push into new areas,” he writes. “A mission that is about being a ‘market leader,’ once accomplished, offers little more inspiration. The broad scope of our mission allows Google to move forward by steering with a compass rather than a speedometer.”

To Bock, a mission statement should capture the essence of the corporate culture its leaders are trying to create.

As Google transformed from a tech startup to a monolithic international company, says Bock, its mission “provided a touchstone for keeping the culture strong.”

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