Masterclass on Mission Statement from Gordon Moore, co-founder, Intel Corporation

Moore’s Law, named after the Co-Founder of Intel Corporation, describes an observable, exponential increase in microprocessor power over time. In this article we argue that far from a fundamental law of the universe, in reality Moore’s Law provides a masterclass in defining a mission statement for an Objectives and Key Results led company from one of the founding fathers of the IT industry.

Gordon Earle Moore, Co-Founder & former CEO of Intel Corporation, in 1965 wrote a paper that has long since passed into industry folklore. In the paper Moore makes the seemingly wild claim that the power of microprocessors would double approximately every year for the foreseeable future.

Commentators could have been forgiven for dismissing Moore’s claim as another example of bombast from an industry hardly known for its reserve. But skeptics were forced to reconsider when, after Moore co-founded Intel three years later, the power of his fledgling company’s microprocessors continue to increase year after year at an astonishing geometric rate. Miniaturization of circuits was at the heart of this increase in processor power. However, the extent to how far the manufacturing process could miniaturize circuits appeared limited by the very nature of light itself. Quite simply, the laser light used to etch circuit boards could only be focused to a point so small and no further before diffusing. Yet even this seemingly intractable road block was overcome with a revolution in Photolithography leading to the use of ultraviolet light and Exicmer Lasers.

 

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By the Eighties this phenomenon that began as a wild claim was now being referred to as Moore’s Law! The inference being Gordon Moore, like Isaac Newton before him, had stumbled onto a characteristic of existence that held true throughout the universe. Today at Cern, Physicists are grappling with the building blocks of the universe in search of a Theory of Everything; a single equation providing an unified view of the universe encompassing all the laws we hold true, from laws covering the cosmological scale right down to the quantum scale. Is it possible these same physicists are also diverting time to cobble a law concerning North American microprocessor production into an equation dealing with fundamental laws such as Gravity, Inertia and Electromagnetism? Unlikely.

The Wikepedia entry for Moore’s Law grapples with this same question before conceding that Moore’s law, ‘is an observation or projection and not a physical or natural law’. While Moore’s law can be safely described as both observation and projection, this hardly brings us any closer to understanding what we are dealing with. The key to penetrating the fog comes with understanding that Intel was always a ‘mission’ driven company. Now Moore’s Law is revealed for what it really is;  a mission statement formulated to answer the almost impossibly ambitious vision for the time, of making home computing affordable for everyone.

  • Moore’s Law as a mission statement first answers how Intel would go about realising a company vision so ambitious it required squaring the contradictory requirements of making processors both faster and cheaper. In doing so, it astutely places the top-level goal focus on what really matters; the manufacturing process in this case.
  • The focus of the mission is sufficiently upstream to ensure it encompasses all downstream yet equally important goals for the enterprise; such as addressing manufacturing challenges, reducing manufacturing costs, attracting the right skills, and ultimately staying ahead of the competition.
  • Any deconstruction of Moore’s Law as a mission statement must also acknowledge its bold, aspirational quality, enthusing both tech-savvy employees and consumers alike; after all, it invited both groups to participate in a venture that was making history and changing the world.
  • Most successfully, Moore’s law as a mission elegantly provides clarity for all stakeholders with a statement so simple, it was as understandable as it was unforgettable for every employee at Intel Corporation, ensuring it remained an ever present consideration on everyone’s mind.

This in turn laid the foundation for an incredible level of workforce mission alignment allowing for a company performance so astonishing, it was confused as an act of discovering a natural phenomenon; a misunderstanding that turned the workers at Intel into unsung heros with the suggestion they had in fact simply discovered a hitherto unknown natural constant, allowing them to sit back and reap the rewards while the universe took its natural course; kind of like finding oil, drilling, fitting a pumpjack, then sitting back to count the profits.

If any further convincing is required that Moore’s law is not a fundamental law of the universe, but rather a masterclass in mission statement, consider the following: It was at Intel the methodology of Objectives and Key Results was developed.

In conclusion, we have Gordon Moore and Intel Corporation to thank for not only incubating and giving rise to Objectives and Key Results, but also giving us one of the best examples of how to go about defining a mission statement for the same methodology.