A commentary on Pells’ “higher purpose” editorial, Part 2


Organisational vision, mission, and

strategic drivers



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia


This commentary relates to organisational vision and mission statements, as discussed by Pells 2021 in Part 2 of his editorial: Project management needs a higher purpose! In his discussions, Pells emphasises the importance of vision and mission statement, whose attributes he summarises very neatly in two substantial paragraphs. He then looks at several of the world’s most prominent project management representative bodies, in the context of what they have in the way of mission statements. Three of these bodies do not have any form of mission statement. The other four have a mix of mission statements, purposes, and strategies/goals, all of which evidently fall short of what Pells believes they could or should be. He concludes this series of discussions with:

The questions for each [representative bodies] are: “Do you have a vision or mission statement? Are they the right ones? And do they go beyond just serving your members (or customers)?”

My own experience in organisational strategic planning have led me to a somewhat different “take” on the nature and importance of vision and mission statements in the organisational strategic management context. That difference is the genesis of the main discussion point of this commentary, which emphasises the role of strategic drivers, and their influence on establishing and re-establishing organisational strategic objectives in the dynamic environment of the modern era. I believe these to be far more relevant than vision and/or mission statements, as now discussed.


Although the literature typically espouses the merits of mission and vision statements, my own experience has suggested to me that they may not be as important as generally touted. This perspective mostly derives from my time as secretary of the Lend Lease Group [Strategic] Development Committee for some seven years from 1965. We did not have a vision statement or mission statement. At one stage a committee member suggested we should, so we laboured long and hard developing alternative statements. We produced quite a few drafts, but rejected each one in turn, simply because they all sounded like pious generalities.

Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but for many Australians, the mission statements quoted in Pells 2021 fall squarely into this category. We concluded that we did not need such a statement. The ongoing success of Lend Lease in the Dusseldorp era (to 1988), and beyond, suggests that this was a reasonable conclusion.

However, that is not to say that there was no common vision amongst employees. There was nothing written down, but in discussing this with many of my colleagues in later years we came to an interesting conclusion about the nature of this unspoken thing we shared. We all wanted our project, or unit, or company, and certainly the corporation, “to be the best”. Different colleagues had quite different perceptions of what “being the best” entailed. These differences were also acknowledged, and indeed seen as a strength, because we recognised the importance of the diversity of our different contributions towards the multi-faceted attribute of “being the best”.

Where or how did this shared ethos originate? There was general agreement that it had permeated down from the founder of Civil & Civic and Lend Lease, Dick Dusseldorp, sometimes directly, but probably more often via his CEOs and other senior staff who shared his vision of excellence. Indeed, new employees who were uncomfortable with this “being the best” ethos (for whatever reason) did not tend to stay with the company for very long. So, there were some self-perpetuating factors also at play. But, in summary, this shared ethos originated from the top – i.e. from leadership, and in Dusseldorp’s case in particular, from charismatic leadership.

My experience with Lend Lease has undoubtedly influenced my own approach to the broader issue of organisational strategic management. Lend Lease made many key strategic changes in my time with it (and beyond), but these were invariably in response to both internal and external strategic drivers. This appears to me to be the key issue when one is discussing how and/or when an organisation decides to modify or change its purpose – which is I believe is also Pells’ main concern, in his case in the context of project management individuals and organisations.


To read entire paper, click here

How to cite this paper: Stretton, A. (2021). A commentary on Pells’ “higher purpose” editorial, Part 2: Organisational vision, mission, and strategic drivers; PM World Journal, Volume X, Issue IV, April. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/pmwj104-Apr2021-Stretton-organisational-vision-mission-strategy-commentary.pdf


About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD     
Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 200 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at alanailene@bigpond.com.au.

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.


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