What is a Mission Statement?
The definition of a mission statement is a concise description of your organization’s core purpose, answering the question, “why do we exist?”. A mission needs to boldly state why you exist, and why you do what you do. The best mission statements express your core purpose and why you exist with clarity.
Why Are Mission Statements Important in Strategic Planning?
A great mission statement is a foundational element of good strategy because it helps define your organization’s core purpose, serving as a vantage point from which to look down the road. Combined with your vision statement, it helps define why your organization exists and where you are going in the future.
Mission Statements Versus Vision Statements – The Differences
While the vision statement articulates the organization’s future state, the mission directly relates to the vision by articulating the greater reason why that vision matters. A powerful mission keeps the organization on track and rallies around the direction the organization is headed.
|Mission Statements – Why You Exist||Vision Statements – Where You’re Going|
Language Matters. We always recommend mission statements be written in present tense using concrete language. Writing in present tense allows your mission to be easily deciphered from your vision statement, which is written in future tense. Solid language leaves little room for interpretation of what exactly your mission statement means.
A great mission statement is comprised of the following elements:
- Label: We like to start with “Our mission…”
- Verb: Use an action verb in the present tense.
- For Whom: Describe who you do it for.
- Result: What is the result or benefit from your work?
- What You Do: Briefly state what you do and how.
What Makes a Mission Statement Powerful?
Mission statements help your entire organization clearly understand its core purpose and why you do what you do. As a leader, it’s important to have clarity and a cohesive understanding of why your organization exists. Great leadership requires connecting your organization’s core purpose and vision of the future to your team’s day-to-day activities.
As leaders, we are put under a lot of undue stress to generate a perfect, short, sing-songy mission statement. The result is meaningless drivel, leaving everyone irritated and underwhelmed. Employees don’t want to hang back on conceptualizing wishes and dreams. But don’t let being pragmatic get in the way of this important stage of building a strong foundation of consensus for the organization.
If time isn’t dedicated to articulating your mission on the front-end before developing strategy, the result will likely be goals and objectives without a crystal-clear strategic direction.
Mission Statements Answer At least One of These Core Questions
What is our organization’s reason for existing?
A mission helps clearly articulate your organization’s reason for existing. At the absolute minimum, your mission statement should answer this question above all else. What’s your core purpose?
Example: “LinkedIn – To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
Why is it special to work for this organization?
The best way to answer this question is to connect to the heart of your employees, customers, or the population you serve. Be compelling, and let people understand and connect with your core purpose. How does your reason for existing impact people in a special way, or why do your employees show up to work every day?
Example: “Tesla – To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
What is our business and what are we trying to accomplish on behalf of whom?
Some mission statements benefit from clearly stating who benefits from your business, or what you’re setting out to accomplish on behalf of whom. Who does your purpose impact the most and why?
Example: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Checklist for a Great Mission Statement
When evaluating the quality of your current or newly drafted mission statement, it’s important your mission meets these four simple criteria:
- Your Mission Must Be Foundational. It clearly states why your organization exists.
- It’s Original. It’s unique to your organization. If you were to read the mission statements of all the organizations in your industry, yours would be different than your competition.
- It’s Memorable. Memorable = motivating to employees, prospective employees and customers.
- It Fits on a T-Shirt. Peter Drucker famously advised that your mission statement should be short and compelling enough to fit on a t-shirt your staff would actually wear.
Other Helpful Tips
You’re Refreshing Your Mission, Complete it After Your SWOT
Mission statements should be developed after completing the SWOT assessment, and before going into the rest of the planning process. This allows your team to be grounded and in alignment with where your organization is today and what the organization’s strengths and contributions are.
Be Inspiring and Motivational
The mission statement motivates and inspires staff. Every single staff member knows that their purpose is defined in the mission statement. (e.g. Starbucks’ mission: To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.)
A Great Mission Can Be Easily Recited at a Party
Develop the mission statement on a “party level”—it can quickly and briefly be understood by people at a party or on an airplane. The statement gives a profoundly simple focus for everything the team does as an organization. (e.g. Marine Stewardship Council’s mission: To safeguard the world’s seafood supply by promoting the best environmental choices.)
Now that you’ve finished your mission statement, writing your core values and vision is up next.
Mission Statement FAQs
Answering these three questions will help create a mission statement:
- What is our organization’s reason for existing?
- Why is it special to work for this organization?
- What is our business and what are we trying to accomplish on behalf of whom?
The five parts of a mission statement are Label + Verb in Present Tense + Who You Serve + Result You Wish to Achieve or Reason for Existing + What You Do
A mission statement defines why your organization exists. A vision statement expresses where your organization is going in the future. They work together to express your reason for existing and> how you’re setting out to change the world.
Patrick Lencioni said that a great mission statement should be able to fit on a t-shirt, and that your staff would actually wear that t-shirt.