Howdy! Are you wondering if you need a mission statement? This article will explain:
- Why you need a mission statement.
- How to create a strategic plan that will inspire you and others.
Mission Statements Don’t Have To Be Boring
Does this sound like one of those dull topics only executives and academics would be interested in? IT IS NOT!
If your impression of mission statements is negative, it’s because too many people waste time writing generic, uninspiring mission statements. Even worse, companies and people often don’t share or live by their mission statements, so they become a cynical joke.
Importance Of A Mission Statement
Whether you’re an individual or an organization, having a clear purpose and strategy is crucial for alignment and focus.
No big goal or transformative technology ever happened by accident or without a big vision and a clear mission.
An overarching purpose or strategic planning document is essential for relevance and coherence in any busy life or organization.
Having clarity of direction allows you and your team to align and be on the desired path together.
In addition, a mission statement can be critical when you need clarification or get off track, as it can help you coordinate activities, troubleshoot problems, and make decisions.
Having a documented “higher power” in strategic planning documents enables alignment and coordination of thinking. It allows you and your team to assess your current position and orientation.
Mission Statements Are Universally Relevant
No person or organization stays fixed or constant forever. You should change or review long-term initiatives annually.
A failure to change or review a mission statement or strategic plan on a two-to-five-year basis often means someone’s not doing their job. Either that or you’re in an amazingly stable sector and business in the market.
That said, economic, geopolitical, social, and legal forces that shift over time influence even “slow, boring” businesses like mining and shipping.
When I say a sector is slow or boring, I’m confident there are people in those businesses saying, “This dude has no idea what he’s talking about!”
The medical field used to be slow and boring. For instance, doctors could simply graduate from medical school, start a practice, and eventually retire.
However, over the past several years, big organizations have been snapping up doctor’s offices. In fact, some doctors who have run their practice for the last 30 years are now employees of big businesses to whom they’ve sold their practices.
Mission statements and strategic plans are essential because they give individuals, business owners, and business managers a “north star” they can use to navigate in changing circumstances.
Mission Statements Aid Strategic Planning
Strategic planning and mission statements are critical at every level of an organization — for every individual/team and every function.
Strategic plans and mission statements work for every high-achieving individual, every business function, every business segment, and the overall enterprise.
An organization’s Board of Directors needs a mission statement and strategic plan for the overall business. It helps the board decide how to operate and manage the company. For example, “Do we want to take an aggressive posture in our space, or do we want to be conservative?”
If you look at any industry like banking or medicine, some organizations are notoriously innovative. American Express and Capital One are prime examples of innovation in the credit sector. Cleveland and Mayo Clinic are examples in the healthcare delivery and applied research sectors.
Besides innovators in every sector, other organizations have mostly stayed the same and not offered new products or services for decades. Sometimes it’s clear that the management still thinks and acts like it’s 1960. Their customers either love them for it, or they’re not customers. Maybe they say, “I’m not going to deal with an organization that hasn’t updated its website since 2010.”
This isn’t to say being an innovator is better or worse than being a laggard. Successful companies are pursuing both strategies in many sectors.
This is why a mission statement is essential. It’s why strategic planning documents are necessary.
A Mission Statement is Essential
With clarity of purpose and direction, everyone in the business, including their customers and vendors, can be confident that they’re doing the right thing for the company and everyone in and around it.
For example, imagine what happens in a business where some people want to innovate and others want to keep it slow and simple. Without clarity of strategic intention, both groups end up frustrated and wasting their time trying to do what they think is right. Consequently, these two different groups of stakeholders will literally be working against each other. They’ll all be managing friction and inefficiency from the misalignment of intentions, actions, and the impact of the resulting changes on the people who aren’t on board with those changes.
Guidelines For Mission Statements And Strategic Plans
You must create mission statements and strategic plans as a set because they reinforce and support each other.
I will write about a few different documents here and, in doing so, cover mission statements too.
Keep It Simple
None of these documents needs to be more than a paragraph or two. Simple is understandable and memorable. Long and complex is confusing.
Strategic plans and mission statements provide a framework for every part of the organization.
You can build detailed operating plans based on strategic plans and mission statements. These more precise, focused plans are necessary to execute the strategic goals.
Most importantly, as alluded to above, these are living documents! Write, revise, reference, validate and revise (again) all your plans.
Create A Meaningful And Inspiring Mission Statement
A mission statement describes what it says: A mission.
What’s a mission?
Merriam-Webster says a mission is “a specific task with which a person or a group is charged.” 
For example, missions in the military don’t last forever, usually. They’re measured in weeks, months, or maybe a limited number of years.
A mission statement is not a permanent statement!
Many organizations treat it like it’s permanent, and you can. No rule book says there’s a right way to create strategic plans or planning documents. If you look online, there are many definitions, and many are diametrically opposite.
Nonetheless, there are some rules of thumb that I’m going to recommend. These rules are based on planning frameworks that some of the planet’s best businesses use. Those rules will help you assemble a set of short documents that will result in a coherent strategic plan.
This approach will enable you to create, lead, and manage a living, breathing experience rather than a confusing, low-performance, poor morale, lousy workplace.
Start With Short Term Goals And Initiatives
The first place to look as you define your mission statement is your organization’s current activities, plans, and goals.
What are your immediate goals this year?
If you’re not a business, you still have some sort of goal, whether it’s personal earnings, a level of defects in code, or some other subjective or objective goal.
Clients Should See Themselves In The Mission Statement
For a mission statement, you need to think about metric-based things that you can measure and be known for. This should be something that your customers know and need you for. Those are places to begin to look for your mission statement and strategic plans.
A mission statement will inspire operational goals, like the SMART goals you probably learned about in junior high. These will end up in a lower-level functional or individual plan below the level of the strategic plan. All of the lower-level programs will be suggested, covered, and guided by the mission statement.
What’s the Company’s Vision of the Future?
The next place to look is the organization’s vision statement.
You can find more about a vision statement  elsewhere, but in a nutshell, it’s a vision of the future if your product or service has been delivered to the entire world.
Accordingly, stakeholders will acknowledge the difficulty and likely impossibility of achieving their vision within a realistic timeline. However, it is inspiring.
- At one point, Nike had a mission (which was more like a vision). The mission was to beat and, if possible, humiliate their competition.
- Google had an early goal of cataloging the entire knowledge base of humanity.
- A stock brokerage aims to democratize investing, empowering all individuals to manage their stock trading decisions at a low cost per trade.
While these visions were probably unrealistic, they represented an aligning vision for everyone.
You can extrapolate your current goals and create a similar global perspective for your organization.
Think about your vision: that’s the highest overarching organizational principle.
Align Short-Term Initiatives with Organizational Goals
Inside of that long-term vision, there’s a shorter-term initiative that the company needs to align everyone to by the end of the year.
The one-year plan would provide useful evidence that the company is moving in the direction of its three and five-year goals. Subsequently, that would demonstrate progress, and align everyone in day-to-day decision-making with relative clarity. This is especially useful when the organization is faced with choices.
Company managers can ask their customers what they want this vision principle to be. Their response, which will likely speak to their needs and goals, will help the company identify its vision and mission statements.
A mission statement will enable you to decide whether you want to be the number one most trusted name in a very narrow space. Following the guidance of “blue ocean”  thinking, a well-tailored mission statement can guide any company in cornering the market or audience in a narrow space when they get focused.
That’s a good mission. Isn’t it?
During a certain period, General Electric aimed to achieve a leading position as the number one or number two competitor in every business they operated.
They strategically divested from companies that were unlikely to reach that position or were not already in the top two. This served as a strong organizational principle for General Electric at that time, and it may still hold relevance today.
However, if they have already achieved their desired position, it opens up the possibility for a new mission for the company. While this example dates back several decades, the concept remains applicable.
This example also underscores the reality that a mission statement is a living goal. As such, it must change over time to remain relevant and valuable.
Setting a clear and focused objective makes it easier to align various aspects of the organization and develop plans to meet those goals. This includes initiatives related to profitability, key products, target markets, and other essential key performance indicators (KPIs) the company identified as necessary.
Work at Large and Small Scales
I hope everything you have read so far has been helpful.
In addition to talking about mission statements, I have also managed to touch on how to work from the bottom up with regard to specific ongoing performance goals.
In the short term, you can create a meaningful and inspiring mission statement that your organization will be able to rally around, one that people will find relevant and even inspiring.
They’ll appreciate having something to come to work for every day. That’s what a good and attractive mission statement can be about. It’s what you want to provide to your customers, employees, and vendors, so they have a reason to choose your business over your competitors.
Some of your competitors may have employees who are motivated solely by money. Others may not even know why they are in business (other than profit-making), but may still position themselves as low-price leaders.
However, if there were alternatives, even if it costs a little bit more, the company and its goals would be more enjoyable, accessible, and subjectively better.
Sometimes, the low-value, low-budget offer is terrible in too many ways to continue.
Think in the Short and Long Terms
I hope this inspires you to think about what you’re doing daily, why it’s essential, and for whom.
Consider how you can frame those activities in the short and long term.
By doing this, you be able to develop a more coherent short-term tactical and strategic plan. In essence, this is how you’ll meet your personal and professional goals.
Reference Your Values in Your Strategic Plan
Every person and every organization operates by a set of values. Sometimes, those values aren’t even consciously named. Yet, they guide decision-making and behavior.
Values should be visible and present in the “look and feel” communicated by the mission and vision statements.
Use Inspiring, Powerful Words in Your Strategic Plan
“Power up” your mission and vision statements using a thesaurus and lists of “power words.”
Use emotionally evocative words and ideas in your mission and vision statements. They enable you to capture the hearts and minds of employees, clients, and suppliers.
I Am Here To Help You
Reach out if you have any questions, or if you would like some help with this. I look forward to connecting with you and I wish you the best of luck.
 Merriam-Webster’s definition of a mission.