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While every organization has a mission, not so many recognize its value and fewer articulate it.
If you want to test that assumption, next time you visit the store/shop/service provider of your choice, ask the person you’re chatting with, “By the way, what’s (name of company)’s mission?”
Did you get a clear answer? Try the same experiment in your own company. How would you grade the results?
What’s a mission statement anyway? Is a mission statement important?
Why should your company have one? What’s the use of a mission statement?
Who pays attention to the mission statement? Where does “vision” fit in?
Putting middle things first and adhering to the adage that the simple solution is usually the best, let’s conflate the ideas of vision and mission into a single “mission” statement.
This will spare you (and your team) hours of torturous wordsmithing over things that are arguably two sides of the same coin.
And good mission statements are aspirational and infer vision anyway.
What, why, who
What? A mission statement clearly encapsulates the organization’s real and aspirational reason for being. Easy enough, right?
A good mission statement names the organization, what it does in broad terms and for whom it does it.
This consumer products company example includes an aspirational goal as well: “Organization name (who) will provide branded products and services of superior quality and value (what we do) that improve the lives of the world’s consumers (why) now and for generations to come. (aspiration)”
Like every good mission statement, this one is a single declarative sentence.
Good mission statements are, to a degree, open-ended.
They don’t limit the firm to one path (“branded products…”) and not to one end (“now and for generations to come…”).
Mission statements can and do change, but ideally, they allow the organization room to evolve.
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Why a mission statement? Other than a placeholder on your website, what purpose does a mission statement serve?
Great CEOs and executives know their mission statements are one of the most powerful management, marketing and finance tools in their arsenals, much as generals from Alexander the Great to George Patton understood the importance of a battle flag. Your mission is your rallying point.
Your mission statement tells every employee in your organization exactly what your organization stands for and what you, collectively – and they, individually – do. It boils down your management vision to a single statement that everyone in your organization can remember and act on.
A CEO I know told his employees if they weren’t doing the mission, they had permission to stop what they were doing and do the mission instead.
Your mission statement tells everyone from top to bottom how they fit and what they contribute to achieving the mission. Your mission statement is the flag your team can rally around, the touchstone of your organizational culture.
When decisions must be made, it’s a guidepost pointing to which path to follow. When your team gets into whack-a-mole mode, it can help point to what comes first and what can wait.
But the impact of your mission statement is not limited to employees.
It conveys clearly and succinctly to your suppliers, customers, contractors and others what your company is about. It becomes the point of your spear with investors, bankers and others who support your organization, reminding them why they signed on in the first place.
Who “owns” the mission statement? While senior managers might help draft it, the champion of your organization’s mission statement is the leader – the CEO.
When the mission statement comes from the top, it carries the weight of the office of the senior-most person in the organization in their role as Chief Missionary.
The CEO is the organizational Moses with the tablets – with only one commandment to remember! (Toga is optional, but it would certainly be memorable at the all-hands mission statement rollout.)
Next time, we’ll discuss some ideas for developing a mission statement, how your mission statement can evolve, places to look for how-to ideas and how organizational values fit into the mix.
In the meantime, Google the mission statements of a few of your favorite companies, organizations and competitors and see how they resonate with you.
John Stearns can be reached at email@example.com.