It’s the curse of many large company strategy and planning day sessions – the mission statement! There are any number of war stories of busy people getting together to talk all things strategic only to get bogged down in the mission statement – why? Because everyone has a view on what it should say, who it should represent and to whom it should directly speak. In other words it’s the thing we all believe is really easy to come up with but, in the end, it often hard than you think!
The example above comes from Life Magazine (which published its last magazine back in 1972) but is really telling because, even though it is long by many mission statement standards, it is exactly what they did and how they represented themselves. At the end of the day the business was true to its mission statement because it clearly articulated to stakeholders what they could expect from them.
So, here are the simple things you need to consider when putting your own mission statement together!
Step one: why are you in business? Ask yourself this question a dozen times if you need to because it sits at the heart of what you do and will drive the content and scene of your mission statement. Be clear on who your customers are and what your role is. In the Life Magazine example it was all people interested in adventure and the wider world – the role of the Magazine was to bring them that world through pictures and images – so, who are you clients and what is your role with them in mind? Are your sector specific and therefore your clients are defined that way?
Step two: what defines your company? Company’s like people are living organisms. We all have a unique personality and often the personality of a business is a reflection of the founder – so, ask yourself these questions:
Is your business a steady ship, safe as she goes? Or is it more quirky, funky and stylish – are you at the cutting edge and if so how would you define any one of those things in the context of yourself and (therefore) mission?
How do you want to project that style or culture to the wider world and therefore your clients or stakeholders?
Step three: what makes your business stand out from everyone else? Everyone needs goals or aspirations so what are yours? Are you attempting to do something out of the ordinary that allows you to stand out – is there something unique about you versus someone else? As an exercise list some goals down that will be most relevant to you such as 1: provide sustainable alternatives to our competitors 2: provide value for money 3: provide exceptional customer services 4: be always ahead of the crowd through innovation
Step Four: bringing the mission statement together: now it’s time to bring everything together and the best thing to do is try and start off with a simple sentence that really cuts to the heart of what your business has to offer and what you intend to do (this is where your goals come in!). Take a look at these examples:
Starbucks: "Our Coffee. It has always been, and will always be, about quality. We’re passionate about ethically sourcing the finest coffee beans, roasting them with great care, and improving the lives of people who grow them. We care deeply about all of this; our work is never done."
Ben and Jerry's: "Product Mission: To make, distribute and sell the finest quality all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment.”
Facebook:"Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected."
Once you have sentence together start adding quantifiable elements (as suggested by WIKI HOW)
Instead of saying something like "We aim to make the world a better place," tell which customers you're aiming to help. Look back at your brainstorming notes for concrete ideas.
Instead of saying something like "We'll continue to innovate to make our product the best it can be," say something real about what you're developing. What constitutes "best" in your field?
Throw in a touch of personality that you worked on earlier that reflects the playful (or conservative) nature of the business. If you are a more formal organisation then use formal language – but if you are young, dynamic and out there use creative language so people can build a sense of affinity with you.
Try and leave out “fluff” statements! People see them coming a mile away! And, of course, try and make sure it is not too long! People don’t want to be reading a business plan over three or four pages! Finally, road test the mission statement – put it out to a few people you know and ask them to critique it or if they agree with it, ask them why? What was it that resonated specifically.
If you need to change it then do so – a mission statement is not something that should be revisited on a regular basis – you should only review it as and when the organisation changes in major ways that render the original mission obsolete.
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