How to Write a Mission Statement
What is a mission statement? Your mission statement answers the question, “why you exist as a company?” or “what is your organization’s core purpose?” Learn how to write one here from Erica Olsen of OnStrategy.
For more resources on building your strategic plan, view our Essentials Guide to Strategic Planning.
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 developed 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. It also explains what’s “in” and “out” of what we do. And it’s not where we’re going, which is vision. Let’s break it down.
We will this example to explain the components of a mission statement.
We will use this checklist to talk about what makes a good mission statement, and we’ll walk through a simple process to create yours.
The example we have is Google’s. Google’s examples are great and why not borrow from the best? I like to start it 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." This explains 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.
- It needs to be original. This is 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.
- It’s foundational. I already mentioned that, but you don’t want to change it all the time. Maybe a few word tweaks, but ideally not. You want a mission statement that sustains over time. So it needs to be foundational.
- Connect with staff. You know your mission 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 the mission statement.
- Be memorable. Memorable means short and concise. Of course, that’s the balance to strike with a great mission statement.
- It needs to fill on a T-shirt and your staff will wear it. Achieve those two goals, you know you’ve got a great mission statement.
So how do you write one? Sometimes it can be hard. It’s great to get input or ideas from your organization. Gather staff input, be it survey or maybe focus groups, and take that information, synthesize it down, and create a couple of versions. You can do it yourself or use someone who loves to copy-write 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.
This simple process will help reign in the process and not spend forever doing mission statement development. With that, I hope this helps you write yours. Happy strategizing!