Tips on Writing Mission Statements

"A mission statement is defined as ‘a long ackward sentence that demonstrates management inability to think clearly’. All good companies have one."
-Scott Raymond Adams,creator of the Dilbert comic strip-


Definition: A mission statement is a brief description of a company’s fundamental purpose. A mission statement answers the question, "Why do we exist?"

The mission statement articulates the company’s purpose both for those in the organization and for the public. All mission statements broadly describe an organization’s present capabilities, customer focus, activities, and business makeup.

A company’s Mission Statement acts as the company’s compass. The mission is the path. (The vision is the end point.) The mission directs the company to its vision (dream). With it, anyone in the organization can always judge the direction the company is moving in relation to its stated purpose. With it, one can easily make adjustments to keep the company moving in the direction intended.

Missions may need to be revised every few years in response to every new turn in the economy. A company must redefine its mission if that mission has lost credibility or no longer defines an optimal course for the company.

Without the mission statement, a company is lost, and will drift according to the pressures of the business environment. The fundamental problem, termed mission creep, has been a diffusion of focus. There is the tendency of successful organizations to try to extend their influence beyond the limits of their core expertise. So if you want to stay focused, develop a clear, concise mission statement.

The Mission Statement is Based on Our Distinctive Core Competencies. The organization should base its mission on its distinctive competencies. A distinctive core competency is a competitively superior company resource that the company performs well in comparison to its competitors. It needs to stay focused on specific traits (i.e., quality, customer service) and on target or niche markets. McDonald’s core competence is providing low-cost food and fast service to large groups of customers.

The Mission Statement Motivates and Inspires Employee Commitment. Mission statements should be motivating. It should not be stated as making more sales or profits. A company’s employees need to feel that their work is significant and that it contributes to people’s lives. Visionary companies set a purpose beyond making money. Even though profits may not be part of these companies’ mission statements, they are the inevitable results.

A company that says its mission is to make a profit begs the question "What will we do to make a profit?" To understand a company’s direction, we must answer "to make a profit doing what and for whom?"

The Mission Statement is Specific, Short and Sharply Focused. Mission statements should be specific. Vague or generic mission statements lack resonance and meaning. They won’t be remembered by anyone, and will likely be dismissed as too difficult to understand. Many mission statements are written for public relations purposes and lack specific, workable guidelines. It is a precise statement of purpose.

Too general – "We want to become the leading company in this industry by producing the highest-quality products with the best service at the lowest prices." Very specific – Celestial Seasonings’ mission statement is "Our mission is to grow and dominate the U.S. specialty tea market by exceeding consumer expectations with: The best tasting, 100% natural hot and iced teas, packaged with Celestial art and philosophy, creating the most valued tea experience."

It should be Memorable. Describe the essence of the business in words your employees and customers can remember you by. Peter Drucker says the mission should "fit on a T-shirt," yet not be a slogan.. Don’t use the mission statement as an essay or a vehicle for abstract philosophy. Words should be chosen for their meaning rather than beauty, for clarity over cleverness. The best mission statements are plan speech with no technical jargon and no adornments.


If you would like to take a look at examples of Mission Statements, CLICK HERE

Mission Statement Vs Vision Statement – Comparison

Every organization, in essence has some mission and vision, that are key factors in sustaining it in the business. Mission and vision statements give purpose to strategic leadership and help corporate leadership attain a significant meaning. Without a mission or a goal, it’s impossible for any business entity to succeed in the long run. There is a world of difference between mission statement and vision statement.

Mission statements are the main objectives and goals of an organization. They inform the readers and customers about core values of your firm. Mission statements are like your business priorities, your methods and values of working that your firm will follow to achieve its objectives. Vision statements, on the other hand, are you long term goals that you have envisioned for the growth of your firm. Vision is your future and mission is your present, your reason for existence.

Mostly, there is this general confusion between the terms, mission statement vs vision statement. Many people think that both are the same entity. However, as stated earlier, the mission statement is your method, objective and plans you’re going to carry out in achieving your goal, and your vision is your dream, your holistic aim that encompasses the ultimate philosophy of your enterprise.

For Whom is the Mission Statement intended ?

There are different uses and types of mission statements. Some organizations use their mission statement as a publicity tool, others have internal-use only mission statements that serve as a compass for leadership decisions, others publish their mission statements in annual reports meant to be read by investors and potential clients. Finding your reason is the first step in creating an effective mission statement.

Criteria of a Good Mission Statement

Changing the mission or creating an organization’s first mission statement is a process of gathering ideas and suggestions for the mission and honing them into a short, sharply focused phrase that meets specific criteria.

An effective mission statement clearly defines who the customer is and what services and products the business intends to provide. It also serves as a guide for day-to-day operations and as the foundation for future decision-making. The following are criteria for a good mission statement:

The Mission Statement is Focuses on Satisfying Customer Needs. A mission statement should focused on satisfying customer needs rather than being focused on the product. Products and technologies eventually become outdated, but basic market needs may last forever. A market-oriented mission statement defines the business in terms of satisfying basic customer needs.

The Mission Statement Tells "Who" Our Customers are. Who is being satisfied? A company should define the type of customers it wishes to serve. Which customer groups it is targeting. Customer groups are relevant because they indicate the market to be served, the geographic domain to be covered, and the types of buyers the firm is going after.

The Mission Statement Explains "What" Customer Needs Our Company is Trying to Satisfy. What customer needs is the company trying to satisfy? A company should define the particular needs of those customers groups it wishes to satisfy. A product or service becomes a business when it satisfies a need or a want.

The Mission Statement Explains "How" Our Company will Serve its Customers. How customers’ needs are satisfied? A company should define the means or technology by which it will serve the target market and satisfy the customer’s needs. By incorporating Who, What and How the firm will be perceived and act more customer & market-oriented. It will be perceived as a customer-satisfying entity, not a product-producing entity.

McDonald’s business mission is built around:

•serving a limited menu of hot, tasty food (what) quickly in a clean, friendly restaurant for a good value (how)
•to a broad base of fast-food customers worldwide (who).

Keys to a Meaningful Mission Statement

Pass the Mother Test: A mission statement must be a concise paragraph describing what your company does and for whom. Show your mission to your mother, if she does not understand it, start again.

Self-Igniting: Your mission is for you and your business. It does not have to be an earth moving statement. It can be whatever inspires you.

Value Alignment: Forget the money. A meaningful mission goes beyond the dollars and cents. If your small business is creative, focus your mission on creativity. Try to be what your core competency is.

Effective Mission Statements

Effective mission statements include components such as values, vision, and purpose.

All effective mission statements have in common critical components that clarify each organization’s purpose. When people say, "I’m on a mission," it gives the impression of total, single-minded focus towards a worthwhile goal. Similarly, when an organization composes its official mission, the single-minded focus is narrowed down into a concise statement announcing the worthwhile goal.

Characteristics of Effective Mission Statements.

Small business owners, consultants, and researchers all agree that effective mission statements generally feature most of the following characteristics:

1.Simple, declarative statements. Mission statements that are cluttered with trendy buzz words and jargon rather than basic declarations of organizational goals and values tend to fall flat. Conversely, a mission that can be easily articulated is more likely to be remembered and to have resonance.

2.Honest and realistic.Observers agree that it is pointless—or worse, that it can actually turn into a negative—for a business enterprise to create and publicize a mission statement if it is at odds with its known operating philosophy. A company may espouse an abiding concern for the environment in its statement of mission, but if its everyday operations reflect a callous disregard for or outright hostility to established environmental protections, the statement may merely engender or deepen employee cynicism about management and generate negative public response. In short, hypocrisy often attracts greater attention than silence.

3.Communicates expectations and ethics. As Sharon Nelton noted in Nation’s Business, a thoughtfully rendered mission statement can define not only what a company’s business goals are, but also the methodologies it chooses to get there. A good mission statement often includes general principles to which a business’s workers are expected to adhere, and in return, includes declarations of the business’s obligations to its employees, its customers, and the community in which it operates.

4.Periodically updated. Just like other business documents, mission statements can lose their vitality and relevance over time if they are not reexamined on a regular basis. Mission statements should undergo continual review and refinement to ensure that they remain fresh and useful.

The Write Words

To come up with a statement that encompasses the major elements of your business, start with the right questions. Business plan consultant David Tucker says the most important question is, What business are you in? Since you have already gone through the steps of creating your niche, answering this question should be easy for you.

Answering the following questions will help you to create a verbal picture of your business’s mission:

Why are you in business? What do you want for yourself, your family and your customers? Think about the spark that ignited your decision to start a business. What will keep it burning?

Who are your customers? What can you do for them that will enrich their lives and contribute to their success–now and in the future?

•What image of your business do you want to convey? Customers, suppliers, employees and the public will all have perceptions of your company. How will you create the desired picture?

•What is the nature of your products and services? What factors determine pricing and quality? Consider how these relate to the reasons for your business’s existence. How will all this change over time?

•What level of service do you provide? Most companies believe they offer "the best service available," but do your customers agree? Don’t be vague; define what makes your service so extraordinary.

•What roles do you and your employees play? Wise captains develop a leadership style that organizes, challenges and recognizes employees.

•What kind of relationships will you maintain with suppliers? Every business is in partnership with its suppliers. When you succeed, so do they.

•How do you differ from your competitors? Many entrepreneurs forget they are pursuing the same dollars as their competitors. What do you do better, cheaper or faster than other competitors? How can you use competitors’ weaknesses to your advantage?

•How will you use technology, capital, processes, products and services to reach your goals? A description of your strategy will keep your energies focused on your goals.

•What underlying philosophies or values guided your responses to the previous questions? Some businesses choose to list these separately. Writing them down clarifies the "why" behind your mission.



If you would like to take a look at examples of Mission Statements, CLICK HERE