Don’t let the mission statement become the mission
“Sometimes [mission statements are] created at a retreat in the woods, between the trust fall and the passing of the speaking stick. Vigorous fights over semantics last for hours, even months.Then you end up with some variation of … jargony quasi-poetry.”
— Nancy Lublin, CEO of Do Something, in Fast Company
Mission statements may be the most popular management activity since tee time, according to the folks at Bain & Company, a Boston-based consulting firm.
In fact, 90 percent of the executives at 500 companies Bain surveyed had written an official mission statement within the last five years.
Have you ever been sequestered in a conference room for months, putting commas into and taking commas out of the mission statement? Then you know that writing a mission statement can all too quickly cross the line from project to lifestyle.
Get it out …
To avoid devoting the rest of your life to perfecting your mission statement:
- Craft a draft. You can’t develop an effective mission statement by decree, of course, but there’s no reason to start with a blank slate. And who knows better than you the purpose of your communication vehicle? Take a quick stab at a first draft.
- Talk it out. Chat with your staff. Huddle with management. Meet with a couple of key department heads. Have lunch with your editorial board. Call your consultants for their opinions. Run it by a few readers.
- Finish the job. Then, armed with this insight, draft a final statement.
… Then get on with it
If your mission statement takes longer to produce than your annual report, it’s time to rethink the process. Changing “however” to “but” in the mission shouldn’t require a nine-hour, closed-door meeting with everyone who’s ever read your column.
Not to downplay the importance of mission statements, but your statement of purpose isn’t going to get better and better with absurd amounts of time, analysis and input.
Remember: Mission statements should drive your communication efforts — not replace them.___
Sources: Ann Wylie, Planning Powerful Publications, IABC, 2002
“The real focus of companies? Drafting a ‘vision statement’,” San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 15, 1997
Kelley Holland, “In Mission Statements, Bizspeak and Bromides,” The New York Times, Sept. 23, 2007