What Is a Mission Statement?
A mission statement is a brief description of an entity’s fundamental purpose. It answers the question, “Why does our business (or nonprofit or government agency) exist?” The mission statement articulates the company’s purpose both for those in the organization and for the public.
A mission statement is a short statement of why an organization exists, what its overall goal is, identifying the goal of its operations: what kind of product or service it provides, its primary customers or market, and its geographical region of operation. It may include a short statement of such fundamental matters as the organization’s values or philosophies, a business’s main competitive advantages, or a desired future state—the “vision”.
A mission is not simply a description of an organization by an external party, but an expression, made by its leaders, of their desires and intent for the organization. The purpose of a mission statement is to communicate the organisation’s purpose and direction to its employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders. A mission statement also creates a sense of identity for its employees. Organizations normally do not change their mission statements over time, since they define their continuous, ongoing purpose and focus.
It’s also important to avoid confusing a mission statement with a vision statement. The difference is that a mission statement focuses on a company’s present state while a vision statement focuses on a company’s future. A mission statement answers the question “Who are we?” and the vision statement answers the question “Where are we going?”
Understanding Mission Statements
A company’s mission statement defines its culture, values, ethics, fundamental goals, and agenda. Furthermore, it defines how each of these applies to the company’s stakeholders—its employees, distributors, suppliers, shareholders, and the community at large—use this statement to align their goals with that of the company.
The statement reveals what the company does, how it does it, and why it does it. Prospective investors may also refer to the mission statement to see if the values of the company align with theirs. For example, an ethical investor against tobacco products would probably not invest in a company whose mission is to be the largest global manufacturer of cigarettes.
It is not uncommon for the largest companies to spend many years and millions of dollars to develop and refine their mission statements. In some cases, many mission statements eventually become household phrases.
Because mission statements are part of a company’s public face, they are also often used in a company’s marketing. Businesses frequently include them in the bio section of their website, for instance. Sometimes, a company’s mission statement even becomes the core of its advertising campaigns.
Properly crafted, a mission statement can lend a strategic focus to an organization and motivate employees to work together toward a common goal. Poorly crafted mission statements, on the other hand, often consist of the latest buzzwords or business jargon and have unrealistic or unattainable goals, which can negatively affect employee morale.
Having a coherent, realistic mission statement is fundamental to engaging your employees and fulfilling your corporate goals. You can work to improve the strength of your mission statement by gathering employee input during the crafting phase. That helps create a sense of unity and shared ownership in the mission statement. You can also explicitly recognize the talents and contributions of your employees in the mission statement.
How to Write a Mission Statement
Mission statements should be brief and clearly articulated statements of the most important things potential customers or the general public should know about the organization. Typically, a mission statement answers these three questions: What do you do, how do you do it, and why do you do it? Many organizations also provide vision statements, which describe mid-term and long-term goals.
If you don’t have a mission statement, create one by writing down in one sentence what the purpose of your business is. Ask two or three of the key people in your company to do the same thing. Then discuss the statements and come up with one sentence everyone agrees with. Once you have finalized your mission statement, communicate it to everyone in the company.
It’s more important to communicate the mission statement to employees than to customers. Your mission statement doesn’t have to be clever or catchy–just accurate.
The following questions must be answered in the mission statement:
- “What do we do?” — The mission statement should clearly outline the main purpose of the organisation, and what they do.
- “How do we do it?” — It should also mention how one plans on achieving the mission statement.
- “Whom do we do it for?” — The audience of the mission statement should be clearly stated within the mission statement.
- “What value are we bringing?” — The benefits and values of the mission statement should be clearly outlined.
When designing a mission statement, it should be very clear to the audience what the purpose of it is. It is ideal for a business to be able to communicate their mission, goals and objectives to the reader without including any unnecessary information through the mission statement.
Well-crafted mission statements:
- Identify the organization’s target market, audience, or customers.
- Say what makes the business unique or provides its competitive advantage.
- Are realistic and reasonable rather than grandiose or lofty.
- Are relevant, specific, and believable.
- Inspire employees.
- Are short and to the point. One study of 50 nonprofit mission statements found average length to be 15 words.
While a mission statement shouldn’t be written in isolation by one person if the organization employs many people, it’s not a job for a committee, either. Leaders often ask a few employees to write one sentence that summarizes what the company does and stands for. They compare them, looking for similarities, differences, and surprises. They use that input to craft a statement that is honest and accurate rather than something the company aspires to achieve.
If you already have a mission statement, you will need to periodically review and possibly revise it to make sure it accurately reflects your goals as your company and the business and economic climates evolve. To do this, simply ask yourself if the statement still correctly describes what you’re doing.
If your review results in a revision of the statement, be sure everyone in the company is aware of the change. Make a big deal out of it. After all, a change in your mission probably means your company is growing-and that’s a big deal.
Examples of Missions
Here are examples of missions:
- Amazon: to be earth’s most customer centric company. To build a place where people can come to find & discover anything they want to buy online
- Apple: committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals & consumers around the world through innovative hardware, software & internet offerings
- Dell: to be the most successful computer company in the world at delivering the best customer experience in markets we serve
- Facebook: to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected
- Google: to organize the world‘s information & make it universally accessible and useful
- Microsoft: to enable people & businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential
- Skype: to be the fabric of real time communication on the web.
- Twitter: “a work in progress”
- Yahoo!: be the most essential global internet service for consumers & businesses
- YouTube: to provide fast & easy video access & the ability to share videos frequently
- Tesla: Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS): provide America’s taxpayers top-quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all
- General Services Administration (GSA): deliver value and savings in real estate, acquisition, technology, and other mission-support services across government
- Nike: to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world
- Walmart: we save people money so they can live better
- Starbucks: to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time
- JP Morgan: to be the best financial services company in the world
Advantages of Mission Statements
Provides direction: Mission statements are a way to direct a business into the right path. They play a part in helping the business make better decisions which can be beneficial to them. Without the mission statement providing direction, businesses may struggle when it comes to making decisions and planning for the future. This is why providing direction could be considered one of the most advantageous points of a mission statement.
Clear purpose: Having a clear purpose can remove any potential ambiguities that may surround the existence of a business. People who are interested in the progression of the business, such as stakeholders, will want to know that the business is making the right choices and progressing more towards achieving their goals, which will help to remove any doubt the stakeholders may have in the business.
A mission statement can act as a motivational tool within an organisation, and it can allow employees to all work towards one common goal that benefits both the organisation and themselves. This can help with factors such as employee satisfaction and productivity. It is important that employees feel a sense of purpose. Giving them this sense of purpose will allow them to focus more on their daily tasks and help them realise the goals of the organisation and their role.
Disadvantages of Mission Statements
Although it is mostly beneficial for a business to craft a good mission statement, there are some situations where a mission statement can be considered pointless or not useful to a business.
Unrealistic: In most cases, mission statements turn out to be unrealistic and far too optimistic. An unrealistic mission statement can also affect the performance and morale of the employees within the workplace. This is because an unrealistic mission statement would reduce the likelihood of employees being able to meet this standard which could demotivate employees in the long term. Unrealistic mission statements also serve no purpose and can be considered a waste of management’s time. Another issue which could arise from an unrealistic mission statement is that poor decisions could be made in an attempt to achieve this goal which has the potential to harm the business and be seen as a waste of both time and resources.
Waste of time and resources: Mission statements require planning. This takes time and effort for those who are responsible for creating the mission statement. If the mission statement is not achieved, then the process of creating the mission statement could be seen as a waste of time for all of the people involved. A lot of thought and time can be spent in designing a good mission statement, and to have all of that time wasted is not what businesses can afford. The wasted time could have been spent on much more important tasks within the organisation such as decision-making for the business.