What is a Mission Statement?
Your mission clearly states why your organization exists. A company’s mission statement helps clearly articulate your core purpose. It is the summation of your organization’s core reason for being, answering the question, “Why are we here?” A mission needs to boldly state why you exist, and what impact you hope your organization has on the world. The best mission statements clearly express these things to your customers in a way that resonates and engages with them.
When developing your strategic plan, it is important to not overlook the foundation of your plan, including your mission statement. Every organization should have one! Crafting a mission statement may be challenging at first, but with the help of our guide, you’ll be well on your way to making your own great mission statement!
Free Canvas & Guide to Creating a Mission Statement
Whether you’re writing a new mission statement or revisiting your old one as part of a strategic planning process, we’ve created a canvas you can use to create a mission statement that inspires your team. Get started on creating your mission statement today, anddownload our guide for free!
Why Are Mission Statements Important in Strategic Planning?
A good mission statement is a foundational element in any strategic plan 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 what you stand for.
Mission statements are sometimes confused and grouped with different kinds of foundational statements or forgotten about entirely. Some of the common planning elements that mission statements get mixed up with are vision statements and value statements.
All three are closely linked but serve entirely different functions and roles in your strategic framework. Below, we explain how the vision and values elements compare against a mission statement, and how they can all be used together to complement your mission statement for a strong foundation to your strategic plan.
Mission Statements Versus Vision Statements – The Differences
While a company’s future vision statement describes 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. Learn how to write your mission statement here.
Mission Statement – Why You Exist
- States why your organization exists and articulates your core purpose.
- Written in the present tense.
- Helps define the area where you play.
Vision Statement – Where You’re Going
- States your organization’s bold vision for the future and why that is important.
- Written in a future tense.
- Helps create the roadmap for the future.
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.
How Your Vision and Mission Statement Informs & Creates Strategy
Mission and vision statements are really two sides of the same coin. Your mission statement tells them where you are and why you exist, while your vision statement describes your desired future state or aspirational impact.
These two elements combine to inform and create your strategy, which is your plan for how to overcome your current and potential future competitors. The mission and vision are essentially your corporate aspirations, and your strategy is your meticulous plan for achieving it. Because these two statements used in tandem define why you exist now and what you aspire to offer in the future, this can make it easier to pinpoint your unique value proposition within the market.
A vision statement also helps you outline the actions and steps you need to take to make your vision a reality. If you can anchor your plan to your mission and vision, you’ll never lose your direction, even if you must pivot your strategy periodically to respond to different market or environmental conditions and customer feedback.
Mission Statement Versus Core Values Statement
As we’ve stated earlier, a business’s mission statement is all about defining the company’s purpose and objectives. It’s a concise statement that outlines what the business is trying to achieve and how it aims to achieve it.
A value statement, on the other hand, is focused on the core values and beliefs that are central to the organization’s culture. While these statements may serve different purposes, they are not in opposition of one another. Ideally, mission and values statements should be created in tandem, as they complement each other quite well.
For example, an organization’s mission statement may be focused on growth and expansion, while its values might include ideals such as honesty and fairness. By combining these two statements, you get a clear picture of what the organization hopes to achieve and how it aims to do so, while also highlighting the values it holds dear.
Mission Statements – Why You Exist
- States why your organization exists and articulates your core purpose.
- Are usually written in the present tense.
- Helps define the area where you play.
Values Statements – How You’ll Live Out Your Mission
- Clarifies what your organization stands for, what it believes in, and how you expect your team to behave.
- Are typically written in present tense.
How Your Mission and Value Statements Complement Each Other
Value statements are the guiding principles your organization has chosen to live by, which give direction to the company culture and behaviors. Core values help businesses remain true to their mission and purpose by providing a framework for decision-making and actions.
A mission statement provides a sense of direction, whereas values give employees a sense of pride and purpose in working to achieve that mission. So, while your mission statement helps to guide the direction of your company, your value statement creates the behaviors that keep you in line with your mission.
Together, these statements complement one another and form a solid foundation for any successful organization. The mission statement outlines the company’s primary objectives, while the core values ensure that the company is meeting its goals the right way. By aligning a organization’s mission statement with its core values, everyone involved in the company, from the management down to the customers, can easily understand its objectives and what it stands for.
Mistakes to Avoid When Drafting Your Mission Statement
Crafting the perfect mission statement can be challenging and potentially lead to pitfalls when not approached carefully. Here are some mistakes to avoid when creating a mission statement:
Being Too Vague or Generic
It’s important to make sure you’re writing a mission statement that is unique to your organization and sets you apart from your competitors. Avoid generic and bland statements like “highest standards” or “quality customer service delivered.” Instead, explain what those statements would mean in the context of your organization.
You may also want to avoid phrases that feel particularly jargon-y or industry specific. Your mission statement is meant to be public-facing, so ensure that your mission statement is understandable to the general public.
Focusing Solely on Profits
We get it. Of course, we all want to make money and ensure that our business or organization is successful and turning a profit. But is that really what your mission is? Your mission should, ideally, be impact driven. Think about the needs you identified that needed to be fulfilled that inspired you to start your organization in the first place. That’s what your mission statement should stem from.
Forgetting to Consider Stakeholder Input
Unless you’re running a one-person operation, your team and stakeholders should have input in the mission. Interview or conduct surveys with your employees to gain their insight and opinions. You can then elect a smaller, more central committee to come together and find consensus on common themes and craft your mission statement from there.
Neglecting to Update the Mission Statement as the Organization Evolves
Your mission statement needs to reflect your organization’s purpose, above all else. Although you wouldn’t change your mission statement yearly or even bi-yearly, don’t be afraid to update or make tweaks on your mission statement. If your organization grows or changes to the point where your original mission statement doesn’t quite fit anymore, don’t be afraid to update!
Not Reflecting Your Company’s Values
This should go without saying, but a mission statement should clearly express and reflect your organization’s values and purpose in a way that resonates with your team and your customers. Make sure your mission statement describes and accurately reflects your company’s identity.
By being mindful of these potential missteps, your organization can create a mission statement that accurately reflects your values and goals while inspiring your team and community.
What Makes Mission Statements 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. The goal is to bring inspiration and innovation to the company for the long term. Don’t let being pragmatic get in the way of this important stage of building a strong foundation of consensus for the organization.
Video Transcript – Video Title XYZ
Hi, my name is Erica Olsen.
Today’s whiteboard session is on how to write a mission statement. Mission statements are foundational to any strategic plan. You normally build one after you develop your SWOT. And before you go into the rest of your planning process, it’s foundational because it answers the question, “Why do we exist.”
It clearly explains the space that we play in what’s in and what’s out of what we do. And it’s not where we’re going, which is vision. So, let’s break it down.
We’ll use this example to explain the components of a mission statement. We’ll use this checklist to talk about what makes a good mission statement. And we’ll walk through a simple process to create yours.
So let’s jump in.
The example we have up here is Google’s. And we love using Google’s Google’s examples because they’re, they’re great. And why not borrow from the best.
So, starting with our mission, I like to start with our mission, because it gives us a place to go and keeps us thinking about mission, you might get rid of it later, but start it there. It has a verb with present tense to organize. We explain what we do organize the world’s information for whom, in this case, the world?
And what’s the benefit to us existing, what’s the benefit to the world to make information universally accessible, and useful? Really straightforward. We know mission statements are not that easy to write. So, here’s a checklist to make sure that yours is great.
Starting with, it needs to be original. This is really clearly original to Google; they didn’t rip it off from somebody else. It doesn’t sound like anybody else’s mission statement. It sounds like Google’s mission statement. So, make sure yours is original.
Connect with staff, a great mission statement. And you know, yours is great when every single staff member wakes up in the morning and knows that their purpose and the reason, they come to work every day is expressed in your mission statement.
And to do that, it needs to be memorable. Memorable means short and concise. And of course, that’s the balance to strike with a great mission statement. So, here’s your litmus test. It needs to fit on a t shirt, and your staff would wear it that achieves those two goals, you know, you’ve got a great mission statement.
So how do you write one, sometimes it can be hard. So it’s great to get input or ideas from your organization. So, gather staff input, if you’d like via survey, or maybe focus groups, take all that information, synthesize it down and create a couple of versions, you can do it yourself or use one of those folks in your organization who loves to copyright and have them write a couple of different versions.
Take those versions and either have your planning team pick one or put them out to your organization and have people vote on them. So that simple process will help you not go in all kinds of different directions and spend forever doing mission statement development.
With that, I hope this helps you write yours. Thanks for tuning in.
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.
A Good Mission Statement 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 of your work?
- What You Do: Briefly state what you do and how.
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.”
More mission statement examples can be found here.
Checklist for Good Mission Statements
When evaluating the quality of your current or newly drafted mission statement, it’s important your company’s mission statement meets these four simple criteria:
- Your Mission Must Be Foundational: It clearly states why your organization or business 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 Mission Statement Tips
If You Are Refreshing Your Mission Statement, Complete Your SWOT First
Mission statements should be developed after completing the SWOT analysis, 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.
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 Statement 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
What questions do you need to answer to create a mission statement?
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?
What are the 5 elements of a mission statement?
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
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.
How are mission statements and vision statements different?
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
How do you know if you have a good mission statement?
Patrick Lencioni said that a mission statement should be able to fit on a t-shirt, and that your staff would want to wear that t-shirt.