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. Below are excerpts we’ve come across over the years, as well as, plenty of examples. For a quick review, watch our video below.
Questions to Ask:
- What is our business and what are we trying to accomplish on behalf of our customers?
- What is our company’s reason for existing?
Criteria for Evaluating a Mission Statement
- Is it focused on satisfying customer needs rather than being focused on the product?
- Does it tell who our customers are?
- Does it explain what customer needs our company is trying to satisfy?
- Does it explain how our company will serve its customers?
- Does it fit the current market environment?
- Is it based on our core competencies? (A core competency is a company strength.)
- Is it motivating and does it inspire employee commitment?
- Is it realistic?
- Is it specific, short, sharply focused and memorable.
- Is it clear and easily understood?
- Does it say what we want to be remembered for?
Defining Your Mission
“What is our business and what are we trying to accomplish on behalf of our customers?” (Direction, umbrella statement, purpose statement, scope of operation)
What a company is currently seeking to do for its customers is often termed the company’s mission. It answers the question “What is the company’s reason for existing?” It is a statement of the company’s purpose. A mission statement is useful for putting the spotlight on what business a company is presently in and the customer needs it is presently endeavoring to serve. It deals with the present and answers the question “What is our business and what are we trying to accomplish on behalf of our customers?” It is a logical vantage point from which to look down the road. (Thomas Strickland, p.4, 28)
A mission statement defines the company’s purpose. It is a single statement of why something or someone exists. The question to ask to determine purpose is:
In light of all the needs we see, why do we exist as an organization?
A mission statement is like your North Star. A North Star, is not a place you go, it is a fixed point giving you perspective on where you are going. Your mission statement keeps you headed in the right general direction. A mission statement is a very specific umbrella statement explaining why you do everything you do within your organization.(Bobb Beihl)
A mission statement is a statement of the organization’s reason for being, its purpose – what it wants to accomplish in the larger environment. (Kotler p.49). It explains why the organization does what it does. It says what, in the end, the organization wants to be remembered for. (Drucker). A clear mission statement acts as an “invisible hand” that guides people in the organization. (Kotler p.49).
An effective mission statement clearly defines who the customer is and what services and products the business intends to provide. It also serves as a guide for day-to-day operations and as the foundation for future decision-making.
Contemporary strategic marketing perspectives indicate that an organization should define a business by the type of customers it wishes to serve, the particular needs of those customers groups it wishes to satisfy, and the means or technology by which the organization will satisfy these customer needs. Thus the firm will be perceived and act more customer & market-oriented. (A customer-satisfying entity, not a product-producing entity.) (Kerin & Peterson, p.2).
A company’s Mission Statement acts as the company’s compass. The mission is the path. (The vision is the end point.) The mission directs the company to its vision (dream). With it, anyone in the organization can always judge the direction the company is moving in relation to its stated purpose. With it, one can easily make adjustments to keep the company moving in the direction intended.
Missions may need to be revised every few years in response to every new turn in the economy. A company must redefine its mission if that mission has lost credibility or no longer defines an optimal course for the company. (Kotler p.68)
Without the mission statement, a company is lost, and will drift according to the pressures of the business environment. The fundamental problem, termed mission creep, has been a diffusion of focus. There is the tendency of successful organizations to try to extend their influence beyond the limits of their core expertise. So if you want to stay focused, develop a clear, concise mission statement.
Writing a Mission Statement Mission Statement = Define of company’s business + Meeting customer needs
Questions to Ask in Writing a Mission Statement: (Bobb Beihl)
- What single, solitary word is the focus for our organization? This is a single focus word within our organization.
- What would be the 2 or 3 words that would explain why we exist?
- What one sentence would sum up what our organization is about, in a very simple, clear, easy to understand way? Take your 2-3 words and put them into a single non-technical sentence that anyone could easily understand.
Criteria for a Good Mission Statement
Changing the mission or creating an organization’s first mission statement is a process of gathering ideas and suggestions for the mission and honing them into a short, sharply focused phrase that meets specific criteria.
An effective mission statement clearly defines who the customer is and what services and products the business intends to provide. It also serves as a guide for day-to-day operations and as the foundation for future decision-making. The following are criteria for a good mission statement:
The Mission Statement Focuses on Satisfying Customer Needs.
It should focused on satisfying customer needs rather than being focused on the product. Products and technologies eventually become outdated, but basic market needs may last forever. A market-oriented mission statement defines the business in terms of satisfying basic customer needs. (Kotler p.49)
The Mission Statement Tells “Who” Our Customers are. (Thompson Strickland, p.30)
Who is being satisfied? A company should define the type of customers it wishes to serve. Which customer groups it is targeting. Customer groups are relevant because they indicate the market to be served, the geographic domain to be covered, and the types of buyers the firm is going after
The Mission Statement Explains “What” Customer Needs Our Company is Trying to Satisfy.
What customer needs is the company trying to satisfy? A company should define the particular needs of those customers groups it wishes to satisfy. A product or service becomes a business when it satisfies a need or a want.
The Mission Statement Explains “How” Our Company will Serve its Customers.
How customers’ needs are satisfied? A company should define the means or technology by which it will serve the target market and satisfy the customer’s needs. By incorporating Who, What and How the firm will be perceived and act more customer & market-oriented. It will be perceived as a customer-satisfying entity, not a product-producing entity. (Kerin & Peterson, p.2.)
The Mission Statement Fits the Current Market Environment.
Missions should fit the current market environment.(Kotler p.52) ” Girl Scouts would not recruit successfully in today’s environment with their former mission: “to prepare young girls for motherhood and wifely duties.”
The Mission Statement is Based on Our Competitive Advantage.
Competitive advantage arises from leveraging a firm’s unique skills and resources to implement value-creating strategy that competitors cannot implement as effectively. Your company should base its mission on a competitively superior internal strength or resource that the company performs well in comparison to its competitors.
The Mission Statement is Based on Our Distinctive Core Competencies.
The organization should base its mission on its distinctive competencies.(Kotler p.52) A distinctive core competency is a competitively superior company resource that the company performs well in comparison to its competitors.(Thompson Strickland) It needs to stay focused on specific traits (i.e., quality, customer service) and on target or niche markets. McDonald’s core competence is providing low-cost food and fast service to large groups of customers.
The Mission Statement Motivates and Inspires Employee Commitment.
Mission statements should be motivating. It should not be stated as making more sales or profits. A company’s employees need to feel that their work is significant and that it contributes to people’s lives. Visionary companies set a purpose beyond making money. Even though profits may not be part of these companies’ mission statements, they are the inevitable results.(Kotler p.53).
A company that says its mission is to make a profit begs the question “What will we do to make a profit?”
To understand a company’s direction, we must answer “to make a profit doing what and for whom?” (Thompson Strickland, p.29).
The Mission Statement is Realistic.The Mission Statement is Specific, Short and Sharply Focused.
Mission statements should be realistic. The company should avoid making the mission too narrow or too broad. (Kotler p.50)
The Mission Statement is Specific, Short and Sharply Focused.
Mission statements should be specific. Vague or generic mission statements lack resonance and meaning. They won’t be remembered by anyone, and will likely be dismissed as too difficult to understand. Many mission statements are written for public relations purposes and lack specific, workable guidelines. It is a precise statement of purpose. (Kotler p.51)
It should be memorable.
Describe the essence of the business in words your employees and customers can remember you by. Peter Drucker says the mission should “fit on a T-shirt,” yet not be a slogan.. Don’t use the mission statement as an essay or a vehicle for abstract philosophy. Words should be chosen for their meaning rather than beauty, for clarity over cleverness. The best mission statements are plan speech with no technical jargon and no adornments.
The Mission Statement is Clear and Easily Understood.
Develop your mission statement to a “party level.” A simple, clear, “party level” mission statement can be used to tell people you meet at a party or on airplanes why your company exists. At the same time it needs to give your company team as a profoundly simple focus for everything it does as a firm. (Bobb Beihl)
The Mission Statement says What We Want to be Remembered for.
A mission statement says what, in the end, you want to be remembered for. It is actually an epitaph in present tense. What would you want your epitaph to read some day? Your ideal can provide a profoundly simple insight into your purpose for existing today. (Bobb Beihl)
Focus on profit – IBM’s mission is “To become a $100 billion company by the end of the century.” Focus on motivating – Microsoft’s mission is “information at your fingertips.”
Southwest Airlines would be deluding itself if it adopted the mission to become the world’s largest airlines. Too broad – “providing society with superior products and service – innovations and solutions that satisfy customer needs and improve the quality of life.” Merck Too narrow – providing toys has proved too narrow a scope for Toys-R-Us
Too general – “We want to become the leading company in this industry by producing the highest-quality products with the best service at the lowest prices.” Very specific – Celestial Seasonings’ mission statement is “Our mission is to grow and dominate the U.S. specialty tea market by exceeding consumer expectations with: The best tasting, 100% natural hot and iced teas, packaged with Celestial art and philosophy, creating the most valued tea experience.”
International Red Cross – “To serve the most vulnerable”
To develop a mission statement at the corporate level the following steps are suggested: (Drucker)
Step 1: Establish a mission-writing group.
The writing group must be able to identify the company’s reason for existing, the primary customer, and what the goals and results should be. Members should include the chief executive, the board chairman or another representative of the board, a writer, a manageable number of additional members who represent different parts of the organization, and a facilitator.
Step 2: Adopt criteria for an effective mission statement.
Gather ideas and suggestions for first drafts. The writing group should adopt the criteria they will use to judge the effectiveness of the mission they are about to develop. Following the adoption of criteria, the group moves on to ideas and suggestions for the mission statement. Idea-generating techniques include:
- Open brainstorming: any thought or idea is welcome.
- Each group member finishes the sentence, “The mission should be…”
- Small teams “complete” in a very short time span to draft and nominate the “best” new mission statement
- Go around the group two or three times asking for the one word that must be in the mission statement.
- Each person quickly draws a picture of the mission, then “shows and tells.”
To conclude the exercise, the group:
- Posts and reviews all ideas and suggestions. The facilitator draws a circle around the words or phrases that appear most often.
- Discusses key ideas or themes the must be captured in the new statement.
- Discusses key ideas or themes that must not be part of the new mission statement.
Step 3: Develop one or more draft statements.
The writers along or with a small group develops drafts of at least two possible new mission statements.
Step 4: Judge initial drafts against criteria and suggest revisions or new options.
To judge drafts and make suggestions:
- The groups reviews the criteria for an effective mission statement.
- The first draft statement is posted in front of the group.
- Group members individually rate the draft for each criteria using the worksheet.
- The facilitator polls and records the group’s response for each criteria to determine the overall strengths and weaknesses of the draft.
- The group discusses the merits of the draft and makes specific suggestions for how it might be improved. All suggestions are encouraged and recorded.
- The second draft statement is posted and steps are repeated.
- The facilitator instructs each group member to individually write their recommended mission statement. Members read their statement aloud, and give it to the writer.
- The group discusses whether it has developed an effective statement or whether the writer should develop a second set of drafts.
Step 5: Develop second drafts.
The writer or small subgroup develops a second draft of one or more possible new mission statements.
Step 6: Gain feedback from outside the writing groups.
The board chairman and chief executive decide who outside the writing group will be asked to give feedback. This may includes organization wide input or a few key people inside or outside the organization. Each individual group being contacted for their response is:
- Shown the criteria for an effective mission statement.
- Asked for a rating of each draft, based on the criteria.
- Asked for comments on the merits and weaknesses of the draft(s).
- Asked for ideas or recommendations for improvement.
Step 7: Summarize feedback and distribute second drafts and summary to writing group.
Step 8: Propose a draft mission statement.
The writing group meets:
- Reviews the second draft(s).
- Discusses a summary of feedback from outside the writing group.
- Rates the draft(s) against criteria and cites merits and weaknesses
- Attempts group editing or rewriting.
- Approves its proposed mission statement..
Step 9: Present the proposed mission statement for board approval.
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)