No More Mission Statements
For many years now I have been a big proponent of organizational Mission Statements and yet at this moment I find myself telling some of my clients to
“Stop it already with the Mission Statements!”
Seriously, the mission statement is something that I have felt so strong about for many years, and now I am telling companies to stop doing it.
Why, you might ask. Well, it is not so much that that Mission Statements no longer have an important purpose because they do; but it is that their purpose, like so many things in business, has been corrupted, diluted, and adulterated. Companies are wasting way too much time developing anything but a real Mission Statement
Writing a Real Corporate Mission Statement
A real mission statement is something that is supposed to be meaningful, an anchor and standard by which to make decisions, run the business and engender engagement. But now most mission statements mean very little. In fact, some of the worst companies out there have the most beautiful, poetic and inspirational mission statements around. This is because their mission writing exercise had little to do with identifying and articulating what the company is at its best. It rather was an exercise in prose to make something that sounded good to check it off the list.
A real mission statement comes from deep inside the collective of the organization. It should be the real purpose and driver of why the organization exists. But through the years instead of reaching deep down for mission creation, organizations find themselves in endless and mindless wordsmithery, arguing semantics and trying to make something sound great instead of creating something meaningful and valuable.
Too often the mission statement is written to sound good to the external market instead of becoming the anchor and reason of the organization’s existence. Then add a few people from the Marketing department and it becomes nothing more than a new tagline for the company. At that point it has degraded into an ad campaign, as opposed to something that shapes the company.
Testing for an Effective Mission Statement
The efficacy of the Mission Statement is not measured by whether it is inscribed in a gold plaque with fancy backlighting posted in the main lobby of the corporate office. Or if it each employee has memorized it according to a company mandate. The real test is if it is influencing employees’ action every day, anchoring decisions large and small. Too many companies make their mission statement after weeks of mind-numbing work and then never refer to it again. At best, it is taken out once a year at the strategic planning meeting for a quick review. If this is the case, the company should just stop pretending that they have an authentic mission.
The check-points for an effective Mission Statement are these questions:
- Does it clearly and explicitly express the purpose of the organization?
- Does it call employees at all levels to action? (in how they work and in the decisions they make)
- Is the Mission Statement used as the backbone to make strategic choices?
- Was it made to ‘impress’ the outside world or it is raw and bold, rallying the people inside the company to make sure it is actualized?
- Are your employees motivated and willing to commit to it?
And the 6th checkpoint might be: “Is it original and bold?” This is because every company now has the terms (in one way or the other) “best in class,” “employer of choice” etc. in their mission statement. That is SNORING-BORING and non-differentiating. You will know when your mission statement is right when you connect to it at a visceral level.