How to create an effective mission statement
Wanting to make a lot of money is nothing to be ashamed of, and profits are certainly a critical indicator of success. However, chasing profits to the exclusion of other goals can lead to distractions, and in today’s fast-moving, hyper-competitive markets, distractions can quickly lead organizations astray.
For decades, organizations have turned to mission statements in a bid to avoid this kind of mission drift. Often, however, mission statements are too vague to be of much practical use. Here is how to create an effective mission statement
A company that says its mission is “to provide the best residential remodeling services in greater Detroit,” for instance, is not telling employees, customers, vendors and other stakeholders how it is different from literally hundreds of other remodelers in the city. A remodeling company that says it’s on a mission “to revitalize Detroit’s neighborhoods one house at a time and put joy back into the home remodeling experience by consistently surpassing customers’ expectations throughout the design, construction and cleanup phase,” however, is offering a fairly distinct value proposition.
Creating an effective mission statement can help businesses by:
- Exposing fundamental misconceptions, misunderstandings and disagreements that may be holding back an organization.
- Identifying what an organization does that makes it different and special.
- Building cohesion around a set of core values that will inform and expedite strategic planning.
- Providing senior leaders an opportunity to shape and buy into the strategy they are responsible for executing.
- Creating a shared vocabulary that will streamline decision making and communication throughout all levels of the organization to create a more agile and responsive work culture.
- Identifying a larger purpose, or vision, that will attract, inspire and engage loyal customers and employees.
There has been a growing movement toward multi-stakeholder mission statements in recent years as entrepreneurs look to differentiate their companies and have a broader societal impact. Creating an effective mission statement helps to define not just what a company does for its customers but how it seeks to serve employees, owners, local communities and society at large.
For a remodeling or landscaping company, creating an effective mission statement might include a commitment to use employees rather than contractors and provide them with paid vacation, health insurance and other benefits. Alternatively, it could be a commitment to support local non-profits fighting homelessness or using more sustainable building materials, fertilizers and pest management practices.
You’ll know an effective mission statement when you hear it
Effective mission statements may be rare, but they are easy to recognize. They are utilitarian, which is to say they have a tendency of working their way into employee conversations and daily decision-making process. Owners, managers and rank-and-file employees refer back to them time and again as they navigate the daily challenges of running businesses. The need to create an effective mission statement emerge as often in internal discussions as in external marketing.
The outdoor apparel and gear brand Patagonia is a good example of how to create an effective mission statemen. Its employees talk fluidly about how they must manage the demands of the company’s mission statement, which calls on them to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Employees will quickly point out that when it comes to technical products such as breathable waterproof apparel, performance always trumps environmental concerns. However, they can also talk about the lengths to which the company goes to source cotton, down, wool and polyester with less harmful environmental and societal impacts.
While the brand’s avowed environmental mission has painted a big target on its back with activists, its leadership in developing more sustainable supply chains has enabled it to separate itself – and take market share – from other premium outdoor apparel brands in the last decade. The broad goals set out in its mission statement have also generated an abundant flow of content for the Patagonia brand’s widely read blog. That the company has gone on to invest in businesses and technologies outside its core business to advance its environmental agenda, meanwhile, has enhanced the brand’s authenticity.
Regardless of your ambitions, consider these five steps to writing a mission statement.