An Overview of Mission Statements
Your Mission Statement is the foundation to good strategy. It is a statement of the company’s purpose. It is a logical vantage point from which to look down the road. For a quick review, watch our video below or take a high level view of it in our How to Guide.
A mission statement, by definition, boldly states your organization’s core purpose. It answers the question “why do we exist?”. Your mission needs to boldly state why you exist and why you do what you do. The best mission statements express your core propose and why you exist with clarity.
In terms of language, we always recommend mission statements be written in present tense with the use of 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 to what exactly your mission statement means.
Anatomy of a Good Mission Statement
What Makes a Mission Statement Powerful?
A mission statement acts as an organization’s compass: guiding the organization’s decisions to achieve its core purpose and reason it exists.
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 rallied around the direction the organization is headed. The mission statement is the foundation on which good strategy is based, so it’s important to take your mission seriously and to get it right.
As business 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 conceptualizing about 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 generally answer at least one of these core questions:
- 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?
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:
#1 – Your Mission Must Be Foundational
It clearly states why your organization exists.
#2 – 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.
#3 – It’s Memorable
Memorable = motivating to employees, prospective employees and customers.
#4 – 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
- 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 on 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.)
- 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 mission: To safeguard the world’s seafood supply by promoting the best environmental choices.)
Free Canvas & Guide to Create a Mission Statement
Whether you’re writing a new mission statement or revisiting yours as part of a planning process, we’ve created a canvas you can use to create a mission statement that inspires your team. You can download it here for free!
Example Mission Statements
The Coca-Cola Company exists to benefit and refresh everyone who is touched by our business. (The Coca-Cola Company)
The Home Depot is in the home improvement business and our goal is to provide the highest level of service, the broadest selection of products and the most competitive prices. (Home Depot)
Our mission is to establish a powerful presence and positive image of The Boeing Company with governments, businesses, and community leaders. (The Boeing Company, Africa Division)
Our mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. *If you have a body, you are an athlete. (Nike)
To be the world’s premier engineering, construction and project management company. (Bechtel Corporation)
Helping people on their path to better health (CVS)
Double and Double Again the John Deere Experience of Genuine Value for Employees, Customers and Shareholders. (John Deere)
Our Mission at Publix is to be the premier quality food retailer in the world. (Publix)
We will become the world’s most valued company to patients, customers, colleagues, investors, business partners and the communities where we work and live. (Pfizer – Pharmaceuticals)
Our mission at Aveda is to care for the world we live in, from the products we make to the ways in which we give back to society. At Aveda, we strive to set an example for environmental leadership and responsibility, not just in the word of beauty, but around the world. (AVEDA)
General Motors’ corporate mission is “to earn customers for life by building brands that inspire passion and loyalty through not only breakthrough technologies but also by serving and improving the communities in which we live and work around the world.
The mission of New Leaf Paper is to be the leading national source for environmentally responsible, economically sound paper. (Leaf Paper – Paper Industry)
Seventh Generation is the nation’s leading brand of non-toxic and environmentally safe household products. (Seventh Generation)
Dedicated to a simple principle: the best talent and the best service without unnecessary costs. Whether you’re looking for an outside solution for an important transaction or a great attorney to round out your team on a flexible basis, we’re the smart alternative that wasn’t there before. (Axiom – groundbreaking legal services firm)
The mission of University of Phoenix is to educate working adults to develop the knowledge and skills that will enable them to achieve their professional goals, improve the productivity of their organizations, and provide leadership and service to their communities. (University of Phoenix)
American Standard’s mission is to “be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees and shareholders.” (American Standard)
The WellPoint Companies provide health security by offering a choice of quality branded health and related financial services designed to meet the changing expectations of individuals, families and their sponsors throughout a lifelong relationship. (WellPoint – Health Care Co.)
The mission of TXU is to be the most admired international energy services company. (TXU – Energy & Gas)
Kraft Heinz’s mission statement is “to be the BEST food company in the world. (Kraft Heinz)
Our mission is to improve the lives of women globally. (AVON – Household & Personal Products)
To enhance the lives of our customers by creating and enabling unsurpassed vacation and leisure experience. (Marriott International – Entertainment & Information)
Our Mission Statement is to make Family Dollar a compelling place to shop, work and invest. (Family Dollar – Retailing)
To serve our customers by utilizing information and technology that provide real-time answers to increasingly complex questions. (EQUIFAX – Business Services)
The City of Windsor, with the involvement of its citizens, will deliver effective and responsive municipal services, and will mobilize innovative community partnerships. (The City of Windsor, Canada)
Sunoco’s goal is to be a source of excellence for our customers; to provide a challenging professional experience for our employees; to be a rewarding investment for our shareholders; to be a respected citizen of community and country. (Sunoco – Energy)
Final Thoughts about Mission Statements
As a leader, you control whether the mission statement is a guide to your direction or if it becomes trite. You can spend all the time in the world building a great mission, but if it doesn’t guide your organization strategically then it’s not worth your time. The most important part of your mission statement is keeping your organization on its path, unwavering from why you exist.