By Erica Olsen
Is Your Mission Statement Just Words on a Piece of Paper?

All great strategy starts with a mission statement, which is intended to articulate why an organization exists and to whom it provides value. Not only is the statement found in all strategic planning documents, you’ll find it on meeting room walls, on the back of access badges, business cards and at the beginning of any Quarterly Business Review presentation. With that propagation, we usually consider that the mission statement has been put to its full use. However, I was reminded this week at a client offsite that such uses of mission statements, while good, are really just window dressing.

The real use of the mission statement is full organizational alignment and execution against the intent of what’s in the statement – day in and day out. To put it in concrete terms, here is one VPs comment when asked if the mission statement was still relevant. “When we don’t execute against our mission, we miss it. Our clients are not happy because we don’t deliver the value we promised and we feel that – culturally, emotionally and financially. We have to live by our mission or our competitors will eat our lunch.”

What’s important about this insight is that this client’s mission statement is so well done, it really has the ability to drive aligned action and remind everyone, every day what they come to work to do. Because the company is in a highly competitive environment, I’m not at liberty to share the statement but here are some high points about what’s in it:

  • Space it plays in – type of services provided, not industries
  • The difference the company wants to make in its clients’ organizations – value it is creating
  • How it delivers those results – not specifics, but a few key words

Even covering all of these bases, the statement is memorable, exciting and short. And no – this is not a Fortune 100 that has copywriters and a corporate planning department. Last, but not least, over the 15 year life of the organization, there have been a few tweaks but it has largely remained unchanged.

How is your mission statement working for you? Find out by taking a page out of this CEO’s book and ask your team if your mission statement is still relevant and meaningful. By judging the responses, you’ll know what your next steps need to be!