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Why Have a Constitution?

Many organizations have mission statements. We have a constitution. That's because of a job recruiting session I attended during my senior year of college for NetApp, a large data storage corporation here in Silicon Valley. The speaker was NetApp co-founder David Hitz. During his talk, he told a story about how he used to think corporate mission statements were a joke. One day, a fellow entrepreneur revealed that his mission statement was designed more as a preemptive deterrent against problematic behaviors he had witnessed at a previous employer. That was when he realized that a mission statement is less about a company's actions, and more about its guiding principles.

I think there's some truth to that assessment. It's not like a mission statement is a suitable replacement for an employee manual. It may as well focus on principle over practice. Which begs the question: is there a more effective alternative to generic, forgettable mission statements? Yes, of course: …