Campbell's Ashridge Mission Model

Ashridge Mission Model is a mission statement creation framework of four important mission statement dimensions namely, purpose, strategy, values, and behavioral standards. The latter two dimensions, which incorporate “metaphysical” concepts, are intended to describe the organization’s culture.[1] A strong mission exists when the four elements of mission reinforce each other. This is most easily perceived by looking at the links between the strategy and the value system and whether both can be acted out through the same behavior standards.

Given a certain degree of confusion surrounding what an organisational mission should encompass and achieve, Campell and Yeung conducted a two-year research project with 53 large, successful companies in the early 1990s in order to try to devise a meaningful mission structure. The fruits of their labor is a framework that has come to be known as the Ashridge Mission Model.[2]

Campbell's Ashridge Mission Model
Figure 1. source:

Elements of Ashridge Mission Model[3]

  • Purpose

What is the company for? For whose benefit is all the effort being put in? Why should a manager or an employee do more than the minimum required? For a company these questions are the equivalent of a person asking 'why do I exist?' . The questions are deeply philosophical and can lead boards of directors into heated debate. Indeed, many companies do not even attempt to reach a conclusion about the nature of their overall purpose. However, where there docs appear to be an overall idea of purpose, companies fall into three categories. First there is the company that claims to exist for the benefit of the shareholders. For these com panics the purpose is to maximize wealth for the shareholders. All decisions are assessed against a yardstick of shareholder value. Hanson, a conglomerate focused on Britain and the U.S.A., is one example. Lord Hanson repeatedly states, 'The shareholder is king'. Unlike many companies whose chairmen claim to be working primarily for the shareholders, Lord Hanson believes what he says and manages the business to that end. Hence Martin Taylor, a director, feels quite free to say: 'All of our businesses are for sale all of the time. If anyone is prepared to pay us more than we think they are worth we will sell. We have no attachment to any individual business.'Most managers, however, arc not as single minded as Lord Hanson. They do not believe that the company's only purpose is to create wealth for shareholders. They acknowledge the claims of other stakeholders such as customers, employees, suppliers and the community. Faced with the question: 'Is your company in business to make money for shareholders, make products for customers or provide rewarding jobs for employees?', they will answer yes to all three. The second type of company, therefore, is one that exists to satisfy all its stakeholders. In order to articulate this broader idea of purpose many of these companies have written down their responsibility to each stakeholder group. Ciba-Geigy is an example.It has published the company's business principles under four headings- the public and the environment, customers, employees and shareholders. Under the heading of the public and the environment it has five paragraphs describing principles such as: 'We will behave as a responsible corporate member of society and will do our best to cooperate in a responsible manner with the appropriate authorities, local and national'. For customers there are three paragraphs, employees eight paragraphs and shareholders five paragraphs. A less detailed statement of the company's commitment to its stakeholders is given by Monsanto: 'Monsanto's continuing success requires customer enthusiasm for our products, employee dedication and skill, public acceptance of our social behavior, and share owner confidence and investment. Our goal is to merit their collective support and, in so doing, share with them the rewards that a truly great worldwide company can generate'. In practice it can be argued that the multiple stakeholder view of purpose is more a matter of pragmatism than arbitrary choice. In a competitive labor market, a company which totally ignored its employees' needs would soon find its labor costs soaring as it fought to stem the tide of rising employee turnover. But what is important is the psychology of statements of purpose. Lord Hanson is saying that he is expecting his managers to put the allegiance of employees after the interests of shareholders in their list of priorities. Other companies say they have equal priority. For employees this makes them very different companies. Managers in the third type of company are dissatisfied by a purpose solely aimed at satisfying stakeholder needs. They have sought to identify a purpose that is greater than the combined needs of the stakeholders, something to which all the stakeholders can feel proud of contributing. In short, they aim towards a higher ideal. The planning director in one company, operating in a depressed region of Britain, explained: 'I don't get excited about making money for shareholders. I like to help businesses succeed. That's something I can get excited about. I believe our future depends on it- I don't just mean this company, it's about the future of the nation, even the international community -it's about world peace and that sort of thing.' At Marks and Spencer one manager described the company's purpose as 'raising standards for the working man'. This rings true for many others in the company who felt, particularly in the early days of Marks and Spencer and after the war, that they were improving the standard of clothing available to the average person because they were able to retail high quality goods at affordable prices. We believe that leaders will find it easier to create employees with commitment and enthusiasm if they choose a purpose aimed at a higher ideal. We have met individuals committed to shareholders or to the broader definition of stakeholders, but we believe that it is harder for this commitment to grow. Purposes expressed in terms of stakeholders tend to emphasize their different selfish interests. Purposes aimed at higher ideals seek to deny these selfish interests or at least dampen their legitimacy.This makes it easier to bind the organization together.

  • Strategy

To achieve a purpose in competition with other organizations, there needs to be a strategy. Strategy provides the commercial logic for the company. If the purpose is to be the best, there must be a strategy explaining the principles around which the company will become the best. If the purpose is to create wealth, there must be a strategy explaining how the company will create wealth in competition with other companies. Strategy will define the business that the company is going to compete in, the position that the company plans to hold in that business and the distinctive competence or competitive advantage that the company has or plans to create. Egon Zehnder provides a good example of a strategy which explains how the firm will achieve its purpose. Egon Zehnder wants to be the most professional, although not necessarily the biggest, international executive search firm. Its competitive advantage comes, it believes, from the methods and systems it uses to carry out search assignments and from the 'one-firm', co-operative culture it has so carefully nurtured. Marks and Spencer's strategy in textiles is a second example. In its clothes retailing business, Marks and Spencer seeks to offer the best value for money in the high street by providing a broad range of classic quality clothes. The company's competitive advantage comes from its dedication to quality through managing suppliers, its high levels of service, and the low overheads generated by high sales per square foot.

  • Behaviour Standards

Purpose and strategy are empty intellectual thoughts unless they can be converted into action, into the policy and behaviour guidelines that help people to decide what to do on a day-to-day basis. British Airways provides a good example of how the company's purpose and strategy have been successfully converted into tangible standards and actions. It promotes itself as the 'world's favourite airline' and declares as its aim 'To be the best and most successful company in the airline industry'. The strategy to achieve this is based on providing good value for money, service that overall is superior to its competitors and friendly, professional managers who arc in tune with its staff. These strategic objectives are translated into policies and behaviour guidelines such as the need for in-flight services to be at least as good as those of competing airlines on the same route, and the requirement that managers and employees should be helpful and friendly at all times. By translating purpose and strategy into actionable policies and standards senior managers at British Airways have dramatically changed the performance of the airline. Central to this effort was the training and behaviour change connected with the slogan 'Putting People First'. The Body Shop, an international retailer of cosmetics, has a purpose of developing cosmetics that do not harm animals or the environment. Its strategy is to be more environmentally conscious than its competitors, hence attracting the 'green' consumer and the 'green' employee. Within the company, environmental consciousness has been translated into policies and behaviour standards, one of which was almost unique when first introduced. All employees have two waste paper baskets: one for recyclable products and one for ordinary garbage. Employees receive training in what can be recycled and what cannot. In the last year or two a number of other companies have introduced similar policies. Egon Zehnder provides another example of the link between strategy and policies. Egon Zehnder's strategy is to be more professional than other executive search consultants. Connected with this it has a set of policies about how consultants should carry out assignments, called the 'systematic consulting approach'. One of the policies is that consultants should not take on a search assignment unless they believe it will benefit the client. Another policy is that there should be a back-up consultant for every assignment in order to ensure a quality service to the client. Supporting this systematic approach are behaviour standards about co-operation. These are ingrained into the culture rather than written on tablets of stone. An Egon Zehnder consultant willingly helps another consultant within his or her office or from other offices around the world. Philip Vivian, a consultant, explained this behaviour standard: Collaboration and co-operation are very important and it is unusual in this industry. It is essential that we recognize each other's skills and switch assignments or work as a team. It is also critical for international work. We have one Japanese assignment that is being coordinated from Tokyo, Milan, Paris, London and Frankfurt. So we have to work as a team. It does not always work out perfectly because of the inevitable problems of communication. But the "one firm" concept helps. We all know we arc working for the same firm-no office is going to lose out if it helps another'. The logic for the co-operation as described by Vtvtan is a commercial logic. The firm wants to be the best. This means being better at co-operation than Its competitors. As a result it needs a behaviour standard that makes sure consultants help each other. This commercial logic is the left-brain logic of the firm. Human beings are emotional, however, and are often driven more by right-brain motives than left brain logic. To capture the emotional energy of an organization the mission needs to provide some philosophical or moral rationale for behaviour to run alongside the commercial rationale. This brings us to the next element of our definition of mission.

  • Values

Values are the beliefs and moral principles that lie behind the company's culture. Values give meaning to the norms and behaviour standards in the company and act as the 'right brain' of the organization. In Figure 2, we show how strategy and values constitute the left and right brain of companies with a mission. In many organizations corporate values are not explicit and can only be understood by perceiving the philosophical rationale that lies behind management behaviour. For example, consultants in Egon Zehnder believe in co-operative behaviour because they are committed to the firm's strategy. But they also believe in co-operative behaviour because they feel that it is 'right'. Egon Zehnder people are naturally co-operative. They have been selected for that quality. They believe that people ought to be co-operative. 'It makes a nicer place to work and it suits my style', explained one consultant. 'And it's a better way to work', he added with the faintest implication of a moral judgement. Egon Zehnder people can also be moral about certain aspects of the systematic approach. The policy of not taking on an assignment unless the consultant believes it is good for the client highlights a moral as much as a commercial rationale. Other executive search companies will take on any assignment, they argue. But Egon Zehnder puts the interests of the client first and will advise the client against an assignment even if it means lost revenues. It is a professional code of behaviour. As professionals they feel a moral duty to advise the client to do what is best for the client rather than what is best for Egon Zehnder. There is a commercial rationale for this behaviour, but the moral rationale is stronger. The same is true in British Airways. There is a good commercial reason for 'Putting People First', but there is also a moral reason: we arc all people and life would be better for all of us if we took a little more care with each other. This moral rationale was put high on the agenda when 35,000 British Airways staff went on the Putting People First training programmes. The new behaviours described by the trainers were presented as a philosophy of life as much as a way of improving British Airways. Participants were asked to consider how they greeted their families when arriving home as well as how they handled customers. A third example of the way in which values can provide an additional logic for behaviour comes from Hewlett-Packard. The HP Way describes a behaviour standard made famous by Tom Peters in In Search of Excellence: MBWA. Hewlett-Packard's strategy has been to succeed in high value niches of the electronics industry by being better at innovation and product development. To implement this strategy HP needs to attract and retain the best engineers and product managers. These high quality individuals do not like to be closely controlled or hierarchically managed. HP, therefore, developed the MBWA policy as a management approach suitable for these kinds of high achievers. The MBWA behaviour standard is based on good commercial logic. But MBWA has also become a crusade of its own.Managers believe it is the right way to manage not only high achievers but all personnel. MBWA is not good behaviour only because it is good strategy but also because it is something everyone should be doing. It acknowledges the innate creativity of individuals and underlines the manager's respect for people. It has been imbued with values. The objective observer can easily identify situations, such as captaining a ship, where MBWA would be totally the wrong style of management. Yet for managers committed to the HP Way it is almost sacrosanct. Like the systematic approach at Egon Zehnder, or putting people first at British Airways,MBWA in Hewlett-Packard is not only good strategy but 'the right way to behave'. These three examples show how values can provide a rationale for behaviour that is just as strong as strategy. It is for this reason that the framework in Figure 1 has a diamond shape. There are two rationales that link purpose with behaviour. The commercial rationale or left-brain reasoning is about strategy and what sort of behaviour will help the company outperform competitors in its chosen arena. The emotional, moral and ethical rationale or right-brain reasoning is about values and what sort of behaviour is ethical: the right way to treat people, the right way to behave in our society.

Ashridge Mission Model
Figure 2.source: "Creating a sense of mission" from Long Range Planning Vol. 24 Page 15

See Also


Further Reading

  • Marketing managers' perceptions of the applicability of Ashridge Mission Model to Organisations in Zimbabwe Noel Muzondo et al.
  • Mission Analysis and the Ashridge Mission Model: An Operational Conceptual Framework Noel Muzondo
  • A sense of mission can confer competitive edge Irish Times