An Investigation of Business School’s On-Line Mission Statement Accessibility Dr. Peter J. Billington, Colorado State University – Pueblo, Colorado Dr. Michael W. Wakefield, Colorado State University – Pueblo, Colorado abstract



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An Investigation of Business School’s On-Line Mission Statement Accessibility
Dr. Peter J. Billington, Colorado State University – Pueblo, Colorado

Dr. Michael W. Wakefield, Colorado State University – Pueblo, Colorado

ABSTRACT
AACSB accreditation standards require that “The school publishes a mission statement …and “…disseminates its mission statement widely…” This research studies how AACSB member schools are using internet presence as one means of disseminating their missions. The differences between accredited and non-accredited schools are analyzed for the business school mission. Ease of locating the mission statement is one variable studied.
INTRODUCTION
AACSB accrediting standards (AACSB 2006a) require that “The school publishes a mission statement or its equivalent that provides direction for making decisions,” “The school's mission statement is appropriate to higher education for management and consonant with the mission of any institution of which the school is a part,” andThe school disseminates its mission statement widely to interested parties.” This research studies how AACSB member schools are satisfying these requirements using their internet presence as one of many means of disseminating their mission to stakeholders. The research studies how easy it is to find a mission statement on a web site and how many clicks it takes from the initial school web page to locate the mission statement. The differences between member and accredited schools are analyzed for the business school mission.
This research is part of a long-term project on business school and university mission statements. This work focuses on AACSB member schools only, and on business school mission statements only.
PREVIOUS RESEARCH
A near-obsession over mission statement development in the business world was launched in the 1970’s and early 1980’s with management philosophies espousing the value of mission statements (Drucker, 1973; Peters and Waterman, 1982). Virtually every strategic management textbook offers a chapter, or at least a significant portion of a chapter, on mission statements and how to develop an effective mission statement (e.g., Dess, Lumpkin & Eisner, 2007; David, 2007; Parthasarthy, 2007; Thompson, Strickland III, & Gamble, 2007).
The process of developing a mission statement is viewed as an important first step in the strategic planning process (Keller, 1983; Pearce and David, 1987). A company’s mission statement should also articulate a present business purpose (Thompson, et. al, 2007), “the basis of competition and competitive advantage… and suggest that organizations must respond to multiple constituencies...” (Dess, et. al, 2007, p. 32). Others intimate that mission statements express a vision for the institutions future (Campbell & Yeung, 1991; Davies & Glaister, 1997; Martin, 1985).
The relationship between mission statements in for-profit organizations and financial performance of the firm is somewhat mixed. One study of mission statements (Bart and Baetz, 1998) shows that mission statements in for-profit organizations do not necessarily result in improved organizational performance. Pearce and David (1987), however, found a relationship between higher performing firms and comparatively more comprehensive mission statements. Sidhu (2004) found that firms with an explicit business-domain definition outperformed firms whose business-domain definition was vague. Establishing such definitions may have the effect of “staking out” turf in the industry, which sends a clear message to competitors where in the industry the firm intends to compete, and by silence in the mission statement, where the firm does not intend to compete, thereby allowing others to “stake their own claim.” So it appears that when care is taken in developing a comprehensive, yet specific mission statement, financial firm performance can be enhanced.
Other performance-related evidence of the value of mission statements exists. For example, an analysis by Grossman and Jennings (2002) supports the strategic importance argument of mission statements by demonstrating that mission-directed behavior is associated with organizational longevity. Mission statements also have been linked to higher levels of employee commitment (Ireland and Hitt, 1992). A well-developed and articulated mission statement, when communicated to employees, may provide both direction and motivation for performance.
It took nearly a decade for the exuberance over mission statements to spill into the academic environment (Birnbaum, 2000). Most universities and colleges have developed mission statements in recent years (De Pillis and De Pillis, 2005). In 1994, 80% of colleges and university who had mission statements were making major revisions to their mission statements (Association of American Colleges, 1994).
The purpose of mission statements for colleges and universities may differ somewhat from the role that mission statements fulfill in for-profit organizations. If it is assumed, as Bart and Baetz (1998) do, that mission statements are central to strategic planning which should ultimately lead to profit, this proves problematic. There is no direct corollary, since there is no profit for public colleges and universities to measure. However, what mission statements should do for colleges and universities is provide the dual benefits of instruction that guides behavior (Morphew and Hartley, 2006), and a vehicle to inspire a shared sense of purpose that may be communicated to key external constituents (Davies and Glaister, 1997; Morphew and Hartley, 2006).
As with counterparts in the business world, there is a cadre of critics of the contribution that mission statements make to academic institutions (Chait, 1979; Davies, 1986; Deluchi, 1997). Many of the critics engage in a stream of research on university and college mission statements that falls into the category of mission content analysis. (Boerema, 2006; Chait, 1979; Davies, 1986; Deluchi, 1997; Morphew and Hartley, 2006). Morphew and Hartley (2006) conducted a content analysis of colleges and universities searching for common elements based on Carnegie Classification. Their research suggests universities use mission statements to communicate to external constituencies the perception that the institution shares common values and goals with their peer institutions, or with accrediting agencies. It is their assertion that mission statements are a reflection of the institutions’ environment, rather than a driver of aspiration and strategy. Morphew’s and Hartley’s (2006) summation is that “institutions include in their mission statement what their benefactor’s value.”
There has been significantly less research conducted on the mission statements of schools within a college or university. A study of UK business school mission statements (Davies and Glaister, 1997), consistent with research findings for mission statements of colleges and universities, shows that the business school mission statements are primarily used to communicate the purpose of the school to the stakeholders. At the time of that study the Internet was not well developed, and the study relied on a mail survey in the UK to gather the necessary information. A study of mission statements in engineering programs and liberal arts colleges (De Pillis and De Pillis, 2005) evaluates mission statements to identify masculine language. The results show that engineering programs use significantly more masculine language than liberal arts colleges, as determined by a study of the actual language in the mission statements. The paper provides no specifics as to how the mission statements were located, but all of the 20 top ranked liberal arts colleges and 20 top ranked engineering schools do have mission statements that are available.
It does appear that, although mission statements for colleges on university campuses lack profit motivation, they may share certain characteristics with their for-profit counterparts. One is the purpose of articulating and communicating key organizational values to stakeholders, inside and outside the organization. Another may be to galvanize the commitment of employees in the organization. Finally, establishing organizational boundaries in the industry relative to peers may also be relevant.

The AACSB, the most influential business school accrediting agency, requires a business school specific mission statement as part of the accrediting process (AACSB, 2006a), but does not prescribe how the mission statement should be made available. If it is presumed that business schools desire to communicate their mission statement to key internal and external stakeholders, including peer institutions, and those seeking the goals and values of the school, then it should follow that the mission statements should be made readily available to those who seek them. Regardless of the content of a mission statement, if the intent is to communicate a message to stakeholders, the mission statement must be made available in the most effective but cost efficient manner possible. It is now the norm for individuals seeking information about an institution of higher education to attempt to locate that information via the Internet, since it is both cost effective for the institution to distribute, and time efficient for the individual seeking the information. Therefore the question this study seeks to address is, “do AACSB accredited business schools make their mission statements more accessible on their websites than do AACSB non-accredited schools?”



RESEARCH DESIGN
The on-line database maintained by AACSB (2006b) contains information about all member schools and a list of all accredited schools. We limited our research to North America, U.S. possessions, and Hawaii, with school web sites in English. This included, for example, Guam, but not Puerto Rican universities because all web sites were in Spanish. This resulted in a total of 638 member schools, with 425 of those accredited in either business or accounting. The remaining 213 member schools were not accredited. AACSB accreditation is not required to operate a business school. AACSB accreditation is used by business schools as one method to demonstrate quality education to an audience of potential students and other stakeholders.
The AACSB data base also includes links to school web sites. After going to the school’s main web page, we started by determining how many clicks it would take to locate the mission statement. If the mission statement was shown on this main web page, then this would be indicated as zero clicks. If we had to move to another page or through multiple pages to find the mission statement, this was indicated by 1 or more clicks. All mission statements located were found within 3 clicks. We did discover that 51 schools did not have mission statements posted. We concluded that there was no mission statement posted on those 51 sites after an exhaustive search of each site.
The second factor of interest was the difficulty of locating the mission statement. We developed the following 5 point scale:


0

Very easy, obvious, in the main page of the website or direct links highly visible.

1

Easy but needed to look; or, the web site has too much information on one page to locate quickly.

2

Difficult due to several clicks necessary; or, the web pages viewed had large amount of information or in small font.

3

Very difficult to locate; or, located in the Dean’s welcome letter, or in the strategic plan, with no indication that the mission statement was included in those documents without reading the document first.

4

Extremely difficult; could only be located by using a search engine at the web site; no obvious direct links.

These two factors could be highly correlated. However, it might be possible that a mission statement that took 2 clicks to locate would in fact be easy to find if the links were highly visible. On the other hand, it might be possible that a mission statement was hard to find even with just one click if the link was not visible, or a web page was so cluttered with information that an exhaustive search of the page was necessary to location the statement. Data was collected for all 638 schools by visiting each web page and searching for the mission statement.


RESULTS
Analysis of the data collected indicates that of the 638 schools studied, 51, or 8%, did not have mission statements posted. Of these, 30 were accredited and 21 non-accredited. However, due to the differences in the number of schools in each category, the accredited schools had a lower percentage of non-postings, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1 – Number and Percentage of Statements On-Line







Number







Percentage





Statement On-Line?

Accredited

Non-

Accredited



Total

Accredited

Non-

Accredited



Total

Yes

395

192

587

92.9%

90.1%

92.0%

No

30

21

51

7.1%

9.9%

8.0%

Total

425

213

638

100%

100%

100%

Accredited schools had a higher percentage posted, 92.9% vs. non-accredited at 90.1%. We theorize that this could be the result of the accrediting standards that require dissemination of the statement, and a realization by accredited schools that the web site would be one effective means of disseminating the statement to stakeholders. However, the difference between accredited and non-accredited is so small that it is likely statistically insignificant. For both, one could also argue that the percentage of on-line statements is very high. The on-line posting of a mission statement is only one of many possible ways to disseminate the statement to stakeholders.


Analysis of clicks to locate the mission statement continues with the remaining 587 schools that did have statements posted on-line. Table 2 shows a percentage breakout of the number of clicks necessary to locate the mission statement.
Table 2 –Average and Percentage Distribution of Clicks
















Accredited

Non-Accredited

Total

Average Number of Clicks 

1.420

1.469

1.436

Number of Clicks ↓










0

7.1%

8.3%

7.5%

1

49.1%

41.7%

46.7%

2

38.5%

44.8%

40.5%

3

5.3%

5.2%

5.3%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

There is little difference in average clicks between the accredited and non-accredited schools. Only 7.5% of all schools had the mission statement posted on the home web page. One conclusion is that 92.5% do not believe the mission statement is sufficiently important on the web page to be posted on the first page. However, both groups have a high percentage, 87.2%, that required 1 or 2 clicks. Only 5.3% required 3 clicks.


Although there is little difference in number of clicks, when analyzing the difficulty level, this does show a greater difference, as shown in Table 3 below. First, the average difficulty level does have a larger difference than the average number of clicks. This difference is due to the percentages down the difficulty level, which are significantly different comparing the Accredited and Non-Accredited columns.
Table 3 –Average and Percentage Distribution of Difficulty Level
















Accredited

Non-Accredited

Total

Average Difficulty Level

1.115

1.379

1.203

Difficulty Level ↓










Very Easy – 0

51.4%

39.6%

47.5%

Easy – 1

17.0%

25.0%

19.6%

Difficult – 2

10.6%

12.5%

11.2%

Very Difficult – 3

21.0%

22.9%

21.6%

Extremely Difficult – 4

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

Here we see that 51.4% of accredited schools are very easy to locate, while only 39.6% of non-accredited are very easy to locate. The non-accredited schools do catch up when looking at the combined very easy and easy groupings: 68.4% of accredited schools are very easy or easy, compared to 64.6% of non-accredited. Accredited schools are more likely to make the mission statement very easy to locate, although as we saw in Table 2, not by necessarily placing the statement on the first web page.


Mission statements of about 31.6% of accredited schools are difficult or very difficult to locate, compared to 35.5% of non-accredited schools. Although these percentages are not very different, there appears to be some effort by the accredited schools to make mission statements more readily accessible.
All the most difficult level 4 occurred with the 51 web sites with no mission statement posted. All the others were found through normal search procedures on the web site.
Earlier we indicated that there may be some correlation between clicks and difficulty. Tables 4 to 7 present the relationship between number of clicks and difficulty. In Table 4 the number of schools in each group is tabulated. Here we see that with the very easy (0) difficulty rating, the great bulk of the schools requires 1 click to locate.
Table 4 – Clicks and Difficulty, Number of Schools










Difficulty










0

1

2

3

Total

Number of Clicks ↓

Very Easy

Easy

Difficult

Very Difficult




0

32

3

3

6

44

1

178

42

13

41

274

2

68

68

46

56

238

3

1

2

4

24

31

Total

279

115

66

127

587

Table 5 presents the data as percentages down the difficulty columns.


Table 5 – Clicks and Difficulty, Percentage of Schools, Down Difficulty Columns










Difficulty










0

1

2

3

Total

Number of Clicks ↓

Very Easy

Easy

Difficult

Very Difficult




0

11.5%

2.6%

4.5%

4.7%

7.5%

1

63.8%

36.5%

19.7%

32.3%

46.7%

2

24.4%

59.2%

69.7%

44.1%

40.5%

3

0.3%

1.7%

6.1%

18.9%

52.8%

Total

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

With very easy (0) difficulty, 63.8% require 1 click; with easy (1) difficulty, 59.2% require 2 clicks; with difficult (2) difficulty, 69.7% require 2 clicks; and with very difficult (3) difficulty, 44.1% require 2 clicks. There is no direct correlation, and it appears to bottom out at the 2 click level. Without a direct correlation we conclude that factors other than clicks have an effect on the difficulty.


Table 6 presents this data for the very easy (0) difficulty category only, to determine if there are differences between accredited and non-accredited schools.
Table 6 – Clicks and Difficulty, Schools in each Category, Very Easy (0) Difficulty Only







Number







Percentage




Number of Clicks ↓

Accredited


Non-


Accredited

Total

Accredited

Non-


Accredited

Total


0

21

11

32

10.3%

14.5%

11.5%

1

131

47

178

64.5%

61.8%

63.8%

2

50

18

68

24.6%

23.7%

24.4%

3

1

-

1

0.5%

-

0.3%

Total

203

76

279

100%

100%

100%

Here the 1 click row again shows the highest percentage of clicks. Accredited schools have 64.5% in the 1 click row, compared to 61.8% of the non-accredited schools. The difference is not large and indicates little difference between accredited and non-accredited schools. Other difficulty levels showed similar results.


Table 7 below looks at this data across number of click rows.
Table 7 – Clicks and Difficulty by Percentage Distribution on Number of Clicks










Difficulty










0

1

2

3

Total

Number of Clicks ↓

Very Easy

Easy

Difficult

Very Difficult




0

72.7%

6.8%

6.8%

13.6%

100.%

1

65.0%

15.3%

4.7%

15.0%

100.%

2

28.6%

28.6%

19.3%

23.5%

100.%

3

3.2%

6.5%

12.9%

77.4%

100.%

With 0 clicks, 72.7% of mission statements were very easy to find. With 1 click, 65.0% were very easy to find. With 2 clicks, the difficulty was somewhat evenly distributed across the difficulty levels. With 3 clicks, 77.4% of statements were very difficult to find. Again, some, but little correlation is evident. This analysis verifies the results from Tables 4 to 6, that there is some correlation, but not a lot.


CONCLUSIONS
A summary of the most interesting results shows that:


  • There is little difference between accredited and non-accredited schools in posting the mission statement.

  • 92% of all schools have a mission posted on their web sites.

  • A slightly higher percentage of accredited schools, 92.9%, vs. 90.1% for non-accredited, had mission statements posted.

  • Only 7.5% of schools that had a mission posted had it posted on the business school home web page.

  • 87.2% of all posting schools required 1 or 2 clicks to locate the mission statement.

  • 47.5% of all mission statements were very easy to find.

  • 51.4% of accredited school mission statements were very easy to find, vs. only 39.6% of non-accredited schools.

  • A total of 32.8% of missions were difficult or very difficult to locate.

  • As the clicks increase, the difficulty of locating the mission statement increases.

AACSB accredited schools have a higher percentage, 92.9%, compared to 90.1% for non-accredited schools, of posting of their mission statements on-line as one means to disseminate to stakeholders this critical accrediting component. This may not be surprising, as accredited schools are more motivated to disseminate mission statements as a condition of meeting the accrediting standards. Although the number of clicks to locate the mission statements is not very different between accredited and non-accredited, the average difficulty is less for accredited schools.


Overall there is not much difference between accredited and non-accredited AACSB business schools. What is interesting is that 8% of business schools do not have a mission posted on a web site at all. In this day of web site presence, coupled with the relative ease and affordability of execution, it is surprising that all do not have their mission posted. However, it is possible that some business schools do not believe that posting a mission statement is useful. In fact, only 7.5% had the mission statement on the main web page. A full 92.5% believe that the mission statement should be posted on a web page at least one additional click away.
Immediate future research will include schools that are not members of the AACSB. The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP 2006) is another business school accrediting agency, aimed at schools with missions that emphasize teaching. The ACBSP (ACBSP, 2006) estimates that there are approximately 2400 institutions of higher education with business programs. This includes schools offering associate degrees.
The ACBSP database on-line includes 403 member institutions, with 297 accredited by the ACBSP. The “ACBSP Standards and Criteria for Demonstrating Excellence in Baccalaureate/Graduate Degree Schools and Programs” (ACBSP, 1998) includes requirements for a mission statement: “Schools and programs must have a mission consistent with that of ACBSP. State the mission of the business school or program.” Research will focus on locating the web pages of the 403 member schools and collecting data on clicks and difficulty as has been done for this paper’s research with AACSB member schools. These results then can be compared to the AACSB schools to see if there are any differences between AACSB and ACBSP schools.
This leaves approximately an additional 1359 schools that have business programs. We will attempt to locate these business programs and collect data regarding these schools. Additional demographic data will be added: public vs. private schools, number of students, and type of degrees offered (associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate). Further research may be done on mission statements themselves, with some type of content analysis.
We were not able to identify AACSB candidate schools, those that were in the process of applying for accreditation for the first time. We could not break this subgroup separately to compare to accredited and non-accredited AACSB schools. If a list were to become available, we would want to see if these schools were more motivated to place mission statements on-line. At a future date, revisiting all the web pages in this study would indicate any trends over time.
Suggested additional research stems from the literature review and observations of this study. It is time for research to move beyond content analysis to empirical studies involving perceptions of users and institutional administrations. The conspicuous absence of mission statements on main web pages invites further exploration. Main web pages are likely to be used more for marketing to potential students. A mission statement, no matter how well written, may not be compelling for a potential student who is more interested in programmatic material. Conversely, if a mission statement has undergone sanitization by administration, regents and legislators, the institution may find their mission statement so vague as to be rendered ineffective at communicating critical values. If the mission statement is to be used primarily for strategic planning purposes, or to foster faculty and staff commitment to the institution, it may be viewed as clutter on the main web page, and hence, relegated to a position of lesser prominence. These alternative explanations highlight the need for further research. One stream of research should determine whether variables such as comprehensiveness, or domain specificity improve the perceived value of mission statements. Another stream could investigate who uses the mission statement, and for what purposes, and to what extent. For example, do students use mission statements at all? The answer to this question could be of great interest to institutional recruiters. Or, do institutions rely on mission statements of peer institutions to position their own organization? If so, to what extent? How important is the mission statement to conveying to accrediting bodies the perception that the institution has embraced key philosophies and values? Also, are mission statements effective at fostering institutional commitment?
Note: The authors wish to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of MBA student and graduate assistant Celine Boissard, who collected much of the data in this research.
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