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How to Craft an Effective Business Mission and Vision Statement

In a previous post titled, “Crafting Effective Company Mission Statements,” I discussed elements that make for an effective mission statement. In this post, I explain what a vision statement is, the difference between a mission and vision statement, and how to write a mission and vision statement for your organization.

As a reminder, a mission statement is a brief, yet memorable statement that communicates the organization’s reason for existing. Conversely, the vision statement is a declaration of the organization’s aspirations. In other words, the vision declares where the organization wants to be at some point in the future. Thus, the difference between the mission and vision is that the mission statement is the here and now, declaring the organization’s purpose and the vision is what the organization aspires to become at some point in the future.

Mission and vision statements make up three essential parts of a business strategy. They:

  1. Communicate the organizations purpose to stakeholders
  2. Serve as a target for strategy development
  3. Work synergistically toward measuring the success or failure of strategic goals; vision serves as a high-level leader while the mission serves as tactical measures that are specific

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Crafting an Effective Mission Statement

In this next section, I walk you through the process of crafting a compelling mission and vision statement. Keep in mind that crafting a mission and vision statement is a process that involves key stakeholders. It takes time to develop a compelling mission and vision. Four steps make up the method of developing, executing, and maintaining synchronicity with the mission, vision, and overall business strategy:

  1. The planning and process
  2. Content development of the mission and vision
  3. Communicating
  4. Monitoring and Control

Planning and Process

Planning the mission and vision statement requires that leadership includes all key stakeholders in the process of creating the mission and vision. Begin with your employees and let them drive the development of the mission and vision. Specifically, guide them in soliciting their input through the writing process. Additionally, solicit input from other key stakeholders that are impacted by your business. Key stakeholders could include, but are not limited to, community leaders, key vendors, or shareholders — if you are a publicly traded company.

Furthermore, explain how each stakeholder group or individual is responsible for their contribution to the mission and vision. The key to the planning process is to get complete buy-in from all key stakeholders because they are responsible for seeing that the mission and vision are carried through.

Content Discussion

Begin developing the content for your mission and vision by describing how your business future will look in five to ten years. Be sure to specify the best possible business future for your organization. When writing, consider both financial and nonfinancial goals.

In their book, The Mission Primer: Four Steps to an Effective Mission Statement (add amazon link) authors Richard and David O’Hallaron indicate that the best mission statements give attention to six areas. These areas are:

  • What “want-satisfying” service or commodity do we produce and continuously work to improve?
  • How do we increase the wealth or quality of life or society?
  • How do we provide opportunities for the productive employment of people?
  • How are we creating a high-quality and meaningful work experience for employees?
  • How do we live up to the obligation to provide fair and just wages?
  • How do we fulfill the obligation to provide a fair and justified return on capital?

The key to writing mission statements, or any goal, is to use the present tense. Write as though your organization already accomplished what you are describing. When you write in the future tense, you establish a mindset that your organization is always trying to achieve the mission. Writing in the present tense establishes a mindset and habit that your mission is to be accomplished now and not at some future point. It is the job of the vision statement to project your organizations desired future outcome.

Communication Discussion

Communicating the mission and vision process comes down to exceptional leadership. Leadership within the organization must commit to helping employees and stakeholders identify with the mission and vision, ensuring that all parties understand, follow, and communicate them both internally and externally.

Internal communication includes communicating up and down the chain of command. That is, front-line employees and middle management must embrace a culture of communicating to leadership the issues that arise with production and service that does not fall within the scope of the mission and vision. Employees must also take ownership for implementing processes that promote the mission and vision, communicating potential incompatibilities with the process and mission to senior management and leadership.

Additionally, leadership, management, and employees are responsible for communicating the mission and vision across organizational divisions as well as to key stakeholders outside of the organization, such as community leaders. Any breakdown in the process of effective communication is a potential for straying from the organization’s mission and vision, thus moving the organization away from its original purpose or reason why they are in business.

Monitoring Discussion

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of the monitoring process allows for leadership to monitor the relevance of the mission and vision statement. Mission KPIs allow for tracking the progress of the mission toward organizational goals. If goals do not align with the mission and vision, adjustments may need to be made to the mission and vision to stay on course in reaching corporate goals. Look at KPIs as a thermostat for regulating temperature. If the climate gets too hot, adjustments are made to cool things down. The opposite is exact for things that cool down.

Mission and vision statements are only as good as the leadership’s commitment to implementing, monitoring, and engaging them. If a leader is not committed to involving the organization’s stakeholders in implementing and living the mission and vision, then creating them is pointless.

Mission Statement Examples

No discussion about mission statements is complete without a few good examples to illustrate the concept. Below are several mission statements from top organizations that follow their missions. We know they support their mission statements because their organizations are financially successful as well as great places to work. Thus they embrace an inclusive working culture amongst their employees.

Southwest Airlines

“Southwest is dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”

Etsy

“It’s our mission to keep human connection at the heart of commerce. That’s why we built a place where creativity lives and thrives because it’s powered by people. We help our community of sellers turn their ideas into successful businesses. Our platform connects them with millions of buyers looking for an alternative—something special with a human touch, for those moments in life that deserve imagination.”

Coca-Cola

“Our mission is: To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions. To create value and make a difference.”

Kaiser Permanente

“Kaiser Permanente exists to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve.”

Google

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Developing the mission and vision statement takes time, commitment, and inclusion by all key stakeholders inside and outside of the organization. The mission is your organization’s reason why they exist. In my final thoughts, I would like to share a video on How to Write A Mission Statement That Doesn’t Suck. You will learn how most companies approach writing mission statements and how not to follow in their footsteps, but following a path toward writing an effective, meaningful mission statement.

 

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Writing Effective Business Mission Statements

What is a Company Mission Statement?

Organizations with a clear strategic focus have written mission and vision statements. A company mission statement communicates — most often in writing — the firm’s reason for existing; it defines the values and governing principles of your organization. The mission statement explains how the organization aims to serve its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, shareholders, and community.

Organizations that have clearly communicated mission and value statements that align with their strategy, goals, and objectives outperform companies that do not have them. Not all organizations have a mission statement. Some have informal mission statements, that is, they are not written for all to see. Even with a casual mission statement, these organizations still follow and behave in a manner consistent with their purpose providing a competitive edge over organizations without mission and value statements.

Four key points of a mission statement include:

    1. They describe the organization’s purpose for existence
  1. Focuses on the present
  2. Part of and critical to the strategic and marketing plan
  3. Corporate decisions must be in harmony with the mission statement

Why Should A Company Have A Mission Statement?

Companies that have a formal written mission statement achieve at minimum three main purposes:

  1. Inform stakeholders of the reason for the company’s existence.
  2. Dispute resolution for the company’s future direction.
  3. To serve as inspiration for employees and management within the company.

Informing Stakeholders

The written mission statement provides transparency to a firm’s stakeholders, customers, investors, employees, and business partners about their goals and objectives and the reason the company exists as well as what it is trying to achieve. If all stakeholders have an understanding of why a company exists and their specific goals, they can work together to help the organization meet their mission.

Dispute Resolution

Imagine a firm without a mission, all sorts of issues may arise that could lead the company in a direction that it did not want to venture toward. As an example, take a look at Google’s mission statement:

“Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

In 2012, Google purchased the mobile phone handset giant Motorola but later sold the company in 2014 to Lenovo. The acquisition did not necessarily fit their mission but served a strategic purpose, and they were expected to sell the company, which they did in 2014. Assuming that a manager within Google wanted to continue pursuing the handset market, Google could say that the products do not fit with our core mission and that they should focus on what’s close to their purpose, thus avoiding any potential dispute with internal teams, shareholders, and customers.

Employee Inspiration

Good corporate missions provide employees with a purpose to feel good about what they are doing for their organization as well as for the world. Most employees like to feel that they are part of something more significant, something that has a positive impact on the planet. A good mission statement provides this type of motivation and inspiration for employees and managers of the organization. As an example, Twitter’s mission statement is short, simple, and inspirational:

“To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

Characteristics That Make for a Good Mission Statement

Not all mission statements are reasonable statements. That is, they do not inspire, nor do they focus on the customer or some social value. Four characteristics that make for a good mission statement:

  1. Unique and emphasize the creation of a customer or social value.
  2. Stay focused on solving customer needs or problems.
  3. Employees, know, understand, and practice the mission statement.
  4. Inspiring, brief, and memorable.

Customer or Social Value and Unique

Effective missions are unique to the business and emphasize the creation of some customer or social value. Examples include improving the lives of people’s health or improving the quality of their lives. Mission statements should stay clear of communicating “being the best” at something or just making money. Focus on the positive impacts the business makes.

Solving Customer Needs or Problems

Poor mission statements often fail to address customer needs or problems. They become myopic and focus on their product or service resulting in product-focused rather than people focused missions. A compelling mission focuses on “selling” the problem they solve and not the product they sell. Organizations that fail to address or focus on customer needs and problems may find themselves becoming obsolete as new technologies and trends emerge in their industry.

Effective Missions are Lived and Practiced

A mission is only useful if it is lived and practiced by the company. Regardless of employee size, a good test in determining if the mission statement is meaningful is if regular employees can explain the company mission statement and use it to guide their daily work and decisions. A great way to incorporate the mission statement and get employees to learn it is to have it posted throughout the organization as well as provide employees with a mission statement card that they can carry around as a reminder of their overall mission and goals.

Inspiring, Brief, and Memorable

Good mission statements should be brief, inspiring, and memorable. Being succinct allows employees and managers to remember and use them all the time quickly. Some examples of inspiring, memorable, and brief mission statements include:

Uber:

“Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers.”

PayPal:

To build the Web’s most convenient, secure, cost-effective payment solution.

Whole Foods:

Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people – customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general – and the planet.

Caterpillar:

To enable economic growth through infrastructure and energy development, and to provide solutions that support communities and protect the planet.

 

Final thoughts: Without a clearly communicated mission statement a business does not have a goal or objective. Mission and vision statements are like the road maps for a journey, you may or may not reach your destination without them. Planning and preparing ensure that you have a clear path to your final destination. The mission statement is a firm’s roadmap.