Creating a Mission Statement
First of all – it would be easy to say, “We know our mission. We come here every day and know what we’re doing and who we’re serving.”
That might be true if you’re a brand-new company or you’re very small. But even then, people can have very different perspectives on what they should be doing and who they should be serving.
When you create a statement and write it down, you’re able to be clear about why you’re doing something and for whom.
Unfortunately, just because you write down your mission doesn’t mean your organization will follow it. But if you don’t write it down, you can almost guarantee that no one will follow it.
The Elements of a Good Mission
Begin by deciding what it is you do, for whom you do it, and why you do it.
The first part of that is to define, in straightforward terms, what your product or service is. Clear, concise language helps you set boundaries and gives everyone an understanding of what it is they are doing at your organization. It helps retain focus and keeps the organization from spreading too thin or moving away from core competency. It helps decide what you will work on and when you should say ‘no’ to things that are not mission-based.
The second part is to define your customer:
- Who would want your product or service and why?
- What does your customer look like?
- What is important to them?
- How do you want them to see you?
- How will you serve them?
- What will make what you do different from anyone else that might offer a similar product or service?
The third part and many people would say the most important part of your mission, is to understand why you want to provide what you provide to your customers. Answering the question gives your organization its meaning. The ‘why’ gives people your purpose. It’s the benefit to your customers’ lives and the enthusiasm of your employees to provide that benefit that you want to capture with the ‘why’.
Business coach Simon Sinek often discusses the concept of knowing your company’s ‘why’. Why do we do what we do? He talks about it from an individual perspective, but his concepts are very applicable to organizations. Sinek says that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Consumers buy your passion and commitment to deliver what they need. A good salesperson is one who truly believes in the product or service they are selling. Customers buy from them because of the interest and passion they have for their products.
How Leaders Move Their Employees to Understand the “Why”
It’s not always obvious how to bring that level of excitement to an entire group of people, especially as the organization grows. That’s where a well-articulated mission comes in. The clearer you are about why you do what you do consistently, the more likely you are to bring people with you.
Purpose, cause, and reason give people the meaning of their ‘why’. It allows you to select those who will fit best within your team. Your mission is clear if it transmits your passion to bring to your customers and if it defines what your customers are to you. It not only selects those who fit but also selects those who don’t.
We’re going to answer:
- Our What: Factually, what do we do? Be clear. Be concise. One of the most important characteristics of a mission is to be short so everyone can recite it. If it’s a long dissertation, no one will remember it. Keep it at a high level that is memorable.
- For Who: Next, who are we doing this for? Again, not in minute detail with 10 different customer profiles but in general terms, who are you serving? As I mentioned up front, very few companies can serve everyone. There are a few, but in the absence of a huge internet search engine that serves everyone who has a computer, it’s your first step to understanding your customers if you can define who they are.
- And Our Why
Sometimes it’s helpful to have a template, like this one.
Consider who should be involved when crafting your mission. The simplest answer is all those who have a stake in it. This has limits as your organization may be too large to get everyone involved. With today’s ability to reach out through surveys, you can include a variety of different perspectives with general questions.
- What is our purpose?
- What is the most important thing we do?
- Who do we do it for?
- What do you do that you believe really adds value to your customers?
- What is your favorite part of your job?
Whether you have a small, medium, or larger size organization, getting the pulse of your employees when putting together a mission statement is very important.
Next, you begin choosing every word and phrase carefully. A good tip for this is to put very few people on this task as possible. You may have a leadership team begin crafting your mission but once it gets to the minute detail, that’s something for a small team of 2 to 3 people to handle. Assign this to those who not only understand your organization but who are good with language.
Remember: be clear, concise and memorable.