Monday, November 22, 2010

Mission Statements With No Mission

Have you ever entered into a running television series that depended on you seeing the previous episodes in order to understand what was going on. That's how I felt when Lost was on the air. I tried to get into it, but found it too confusing if I didn't see it for a couple of weeks. (Why are some folks no longer on the island? But they want to go back? For what? Hey, are they dead or alive? Who's this dark, devil character? Who are these new characters? Other castaways?)

That's how I sometimes feel about organizational mission statements. If you weren't in on the story from the beginning, or you are not on the inside, they can be a bit confusing. And sometimes as an insider, the mission statements didn't seem to match what we were actually doing. So why is that?

For some reason there are organizations who create mission statements because everyone else is doing it, or they feel that it will help them attract customers or members. Unfortunately, those are not good reasons to do a mission statement.

So, what is the purpose of the mission statement? In other words, do you have a mission for your mission statement?

Mission statements exist to either help you clarify your purpose, or express clear values. Some organization may even split these purposes into value statements and mission statements. No matter the method, you need to clarify its purpose because some mission statements are only appropriate for internal use. This includes situations such as defining internal roles, or using it to organize different aspects of the business around intended results. Some statements are meant to be shared publicly — such as bringing clarity to external audiences of what you do and why you exist.

Here are some things to consider:
  • Who's the mission statement for? (e.g. internal, external, current members or customers, non-members or potential customers, stakeholders)
  • What is the statement suppose to achieve? What are the expected outcomes? (e.g. to clarify, to identify, to rectify)
  • What does the statement state? (e.g. a desire, a current mission, a change in direction, a vision or dream, some intrinsic values, an identity, etc.)
  • How should the statement read? What's its tone? (e.g. official sounding, friendly or informal, conversational, serious, etc.)
  • Should it be professionally written? (This will depend on your audience and purposes.)
I hope this helps in some small way to encourage more compelling or instructive mission statements. And this can help your customers, members, or potential customers not feel so … lost.

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