The Mission Statement
Every organization needs to define its fundamental purpose, philosophy, and values. The mission statement clarifies the essence of an organization’s existence. It describes the needs an organization was created to fill and answers the basic question of why it exists.
Why have a mission statement?
The mission statement provides the basis for judging the success of the organization and its programs. A powerful mission statement attracts donors, volunteers, and community involvement. It helps the organization and its stakeholders to verify whether the organization is doing its intended job and making the right decisions. It provides direction when the organization needs to adapt to new demands, helps the board to stay true to its primary purpose, and serves as a touchstone for decision making during times of conflict. The mission statement can also be used as a tool for resource allocation.
Characteristics of a mission statement
An effective mission statement is concise, to the point, realistic, operational, inspirational, motivational, informative, and even emotional. It is not too abstract or even too intellectual. The mission clearly states the purpose of the organization. It is forward-thinking, positive, and describes success. It is clear and focused so that the reader can identify with the statement. It reflects the organization’s values, and clearly enumerates the reasons why the organization exists.
Samples of mission statements
When developing a mission statement, the drafters should think of what the organization is trying to accomplish rather than how it will get done. Note the following examples:
NO: “Our mission is to provide free books to local schools.”
YES: “We want to stimulate love of learning and reading in young people.”
NO: ”Our mission is to assist people in searching for their roots and draw their genealogy chart.”
YES: “We hope to enrich people's lives by helping to enhance their link to their past.”
NO: “Our theater is the venue for the most contemporary and avant garde ballet creations.”
YES: “We want to enlighten, excite, and educate the audience through dance.”
Vision, mission and values
Vision: Defines where the organization wants to be in the future. It reflects the optimistic view of the organization's future.
Mission: Defines where the organization is going now, describing why this organization exists.
Values: Beliefs that are shared among the stakeholders of an organization. Values drive an organization's culture and priorities.
Mission statements and vision statements
Organizations sometimes summarize goals and objectives into a mission statement and/or a vision statement:
While the existence of a shared mission is extremely useful, many strategy specialists question the requirement for a written mission statement. However, there are many models of strategic planning that start with mission statements, so it is useful to examine them here.
A Mission statement: tells you what the company is now. It concentrates on present; it defines the customer(s), critical processes and it informs you about the desired level of performance.
A Vision statement: outlines what a company wants to be. It concentrates on future; it is a source of inspiration; it provides clear decision-making criteria.
Many people mistake vision statement for mission statement. The Vision describes a future identity and the Mission describes why it will be achieved. A Mission statement defines the purpose or broader goal for being in existence or in the business. It serves as an ongoing guide without time frame. The mission can remain the same for decades if crafted well. Vision is more specific in terms of objective and future state. Vision is related to some form of achievement if successful.
A mission statement can resemble a vision statement in a few companies, but that can be a grave mistake. It can confuse people. The vision statement can galvanize the people to achieve defined objectives, even if they are stretch objectives, provided the vision is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound). A mission statement provides a path to realize the vision in line with its values. These statements have a direct bearing on the bottom line and success of the organization.
Which comes first? The mission statement or the vision statement? That depends. If you have a new start up business, new program or plan to re engineer your current services, then the vision will guide the mission statement and the rest of the strategic plan. If you have an established business where the mission is established, then many times, the mission guides the vision statement and the rest of the strategic plan. Either way, you need to know where you are, your current resources, your current obstacles, and where you want to go - the vision for the future. It's important that you keep the end or desired result in sight from the start.
Features of an effective vision statement may include:
Clarity and lack of ambiguity
Paint a vivid and clear picture, not ambiguous
Describing a bright future (hope)
Memorable and engaging expression
Realistic aspirations, achievable
Alignment with organizational values and culture, Rational
Time bound if it talks of achieving any goal or objective
To become really effective, an organizational vision statement must (the theory states) become assimilated into the organization's culture. Leaders have the responsibility of communicating the vision regularly, creating narratives that illustrate the vision, acting as role-models by embodying the vision, creating short-term objectives compatible with the vision, and encouraging others to craft their own personal vision compatible with the organization's overall vision.
Writing a Personal Mission Statement
A personal mission statement is a brief description of what you want to focus on, what you want to accomplish and who you want to become in a particular area of your life over the next one to three years. It is a way to focus your energy, actions, behaviors and decisions towards the things that are most important to you.
Personal Mission Statement Guidelines
While there is no unique format or formula for creating your personal mission statement, the following guidelines may be helpful:
Keep it simple, clear and brief. The best mission statements tend to be 3 to 5 sentences long.
Your mission statement should touch upon what you want to focus on and who you want to become as a person (character) in this part of your life. Think about specific actions, behaviors, habits and qualities that would have a significant positive impact in this part of your life over the next one to three years.
Make sure your mission statement is positive. Instead of saying what you don't want to do or don't want to be, say what you do want to do or become. Find the positive alternatives to any negative statements.
Include positive behaviors, character traits and values that you consider particularly important and want to develop further.
Think about how your actions, habits, behavior and character traits in this area affect the important relationships in your life.
Create a mission statement that will guide you in your day-to-day actions and decisions. Make it a part of your everyday life.
Think about how your mission affects the other areas of your life. Is it consistent with your other personal mission statements? Will it conflict with or contradict something else? Is it balanced?
Make it emotional. Including an emotional payoff in your mission statement infuses it with passion and will make it even more compelling, inspiring and energizing.
Remember that your mission statement is not cast in stone. It will continue to change and evolve as you gain insights about yourself and what you want out of each part of your life.