February 17, 2020 · strategy

Mission Statements that don’t Suck

When you think about mission statements do you grind your teeth? Well, most of us do, like Mr Kaushik. See what he does have to say on the matter:

TMAI #197: Mission Statements (usually) Suck. Mantras Rock.
If you love mission statements, there is a high probability that we are not going to get along. I hate mission statements. Well, hate is a strong wo...

It is easy to hate mission statements. They are generally done poorly. But here is a question: if you ate a burger in a McDonald’s and think that burgers suck, does it really mean that burgers suck? I do think it means you just ate a mediocre burger. And that is the problem with mission statements.

People provided alternatives to mission statements over the years: manifestos, mantras. All proved to be bad when done poorly. I don’t think any of those tools have an advantage over others at all. They are tools for different phases and layers means for different ends.

And when the mission statements are disassociated from the strategic process, they often are poor and badly written.

Mission statement, along with the vision statement, is the first step of the strategy cycle: it gives a high-level purpose, provides the “why” and defines the game. By itself, it will define all the other phases of the strategy cycle.

So how can you make your mission statement a non-sucking one? Well, if you approach to it strategically, it should not suck. Let’s see the steps:

First of all, you need to have a clear vision. The vision is the world you dream of creating. It mustn’t be full of jargon a 5-year-old or your grandmother should be able to understand it. It is “The Dream”. By definition, the vision should not be something that can only be achieved by your progress. It should be something much bigger than it. When you have it, the mission is just a step from it.

The mission is your part in creating the said vision. Your raison d’etre. Your organization will need to play a part in achieving “The Dream”, you need to clarify what that is. It should be very concrete. It also needs to have a strong action associated with it. If your mission challenges the status quo, don’t say your mission is to challenge the status quo, but say in what way you challenge it. As with all good pieces of content, “show, don’t tell” applies to mission statements too.

Keep it concise. Keep it clear. Your mission statement does not need to feel like a spaghetti thrown wall. Don’t throw words in and hope they will make a good mission statement.

Take a look at the Marketoonist’s mission statement issue:

mission statement

Study it a bit and you will see what you should not do. Stay away from adjectives, avoid jargon and cliches, don’t try to squeeze your target market or audience in there. It is not the burgers in general that suck, it is where you eat it.

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