If you run a business, institution or organisation one of the most immediate and effective ways of communicating what you’re all about, both to staff and to customers, is through your mission statement.
What is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is, in effect, the face of your company. It should explain the reason your company came into existence, its goals, and how it hopes to go about achieving those goals.
Elements of a Mission Statement
When constructing a mission statement, three elements should be addressed:
- Purpose – your goal.
- Method – how you set about achieving your goal.
- Values – the philosophical foundation of your company and its approach to doing business.
The following example illustrates each of the critical mission statement elements.
“Acme Organics makes a positive contribution to the health and wellbeing of the local community (PURPOSE) by educating food suppliers in sustainable organic farming techniques (METHOD) so that all people may share equally in the bounty of the land (VALUES).”
The Benefits of Clarity
Writing a clear, concise and memorable mission statement is a valuable experience for all members of an organisation. In defining the three key elements above, stakeholders are forced to think in exact terms about goals, processes and philosophies.
Setting these ideas down in writing provides a yardstick against which future progress may be measured, clarifies the boundaries of what the organisation wants to achieve, provides an excellent branding tool, motivates staff and gives meaning to their work.
A business that is unable to come up with a truthful and effective mission statement may well find that it has serious flaws not only in its functional processes, but also in its market performance and its ability to attract investment.
Given the importance of a mission statement, you should not attempt to dash one off by yourself during lunch. A mission statement is a consensus of the aims and opinions of all stakeholders. As such, it makes sense to involve all members of the organisation in its construction.
Set aside at least two hours for an initial brainstorming session. Invite input and ideas from all staff. Look for commonalities among the various contributions – you’ll begin to see patterns emerging that embody beliefs and goals held across the organisation and that can be expressed within the critical element framework (Purpose, Method, Value).
Ask all participants to take away the elements that have been identified and use them to write their own version of the mission statement. Schedule another session and review all submissions. Take the best parts from each submission and whittle them down until you have a punchy, memorable statement that concisely outlines the reason for your company’s existence.
A mission statement can be as short as one sentence. Generally, though, they run to a paragraph of around six or seven lines. It’s fine if yours is longer, but if your statement is too wordy it will lose its impact and neither staff nor customers will be able to remember it. If this happens the statement will not serve to guide the company and will be useless as a branding/marketing device.
Your mission statement should be written in an active, dynamic style that is inspirational, easy to grasp and repeat, and will motivate all who read it to contribute positively in some way to the company’s goals.
A mission statement need not be set in stone. The growth of a business, its changing responses to the market, and changes in the market itself may all lead to changes in purpose and method (though perhaps not in values). As a result a mission statement should be reviewed every year or two and altered if necessary.
It’s Worth It
Mission statements take time, planning and participation. They can be difficult to get right and may provoke dissention and argument as they progress towards their final draft. It may seem like a lot of effort just to write down a few ideas when you could be using the time to get on with the business of earning cold hard cash. It pays to remember, then, that it was an idea, not money or customers or a management team, but an idea alone that led to the formation of your business in the first place.
Learn more about mission statements in this video.