Masterclass on Mission Statement from Gordon Moore, co-founder, Intel Corporation
Moore’s Law is named after the Co-Founder of Intel Corporation and describes an observable, exponential increase in microprocessor power over time. In this article, I argue that Moore’s Law is not a fundamental law of the universe. It is an excellent example from one of the IT industry’s founding fathers of a great mission statement for an ‘Objectives and Key Results’ driven company.
Gordon Earle Moore, Co-Founder & former CEO of Intel Corporation, in 1965, wrote a paper that has long since passed into industry folklore. Because within its pages, Moore made the seemingly wild claim that microprocessor power would double approximately every year for the foreseeable future.
One can forgive commentators who dismissed 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 increased 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. The problem was that the laser light used to etch circuit boards could only be focused to a point so small and no further before diffusing. Yet Intel was even able to overcome this seemingly intractable roadblock thanks to a revolution in Photolithography that led to the use of ultraviolet light and exciplex Lasers.
By the 80s, the phenomenon that began as a wild claim was being called Moore’s Law! The inference being Gordon Moore, like Isaac Newton before him, had stumbled onto a characteristic of existence that held 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 a unified view of the universe from the cosmological 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 Wikipedia 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 it’s safe for the Wikipedia author to describe Moore’s Law as both observation and projection, this hardly brings us closer to understanding its real nature. The key to penetrating the fog comes with understanding Intel was always a ‘mission’ driven company. Now Moore’s Law is revealed for what it is; a mission statement formulated to answer the incredibly ambitious vision of making home computing affordable for everyone.
As a mission statement, Moore’s Law first answers how Intel would realize a company vision so ambitious that it required squaring the contradictory requirements of making processors faster and cheaper. In doing so, it astutely places the top-level goal focus on what matters, which is the manufacturing process.
The mission statement’s focus 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.
Most successfully, Moore’s Law elegantly provided a clear focus for all stakeholders thanks to a goal that was as simple and understandable as it was unforgettable for every employee at Intel Corporation, ensuring it remained an ever-present consideration on everyone’s mind.
Ultimately Moore’s Law laid the foundation for such a high level of workforce alignment that commentators bought into the idea that Intel’s success was akin to riding a wave driven by a natural phenomenon. In doing so, the commentators unwitting turned Intel’s workers into unsung heroes since the suggestion was that they had unearthed a hitherto unknown natural constant, allowing them to sit back and reap the rewards while nature took its course, much like drilling for oil, fitting a pumpjack, and then counting the profits.
The final clue that Moore’s Law is not a fundamental law of the universe, but rather a ingenious mission statement, is that it was at Intel that the methodology of ‘Objectives and Key Results’ was developed.
In conclusion, Gordon Moore and Intel Corporation are to thank for more than just helping give rise to Objectives and Key Results. They also gave us one of the best examples of how to go about defining a mission statement for the same methodology.