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Is Creating a Mission Statement Worth the Effort?

I am sure that like me you have seen many eye-roll-inducing mission statements and wondered why anyone would waste time writing such nonsense. And in any case, isn't any businesses' mission (the reason why it exists) simply to make money?

However, as this article by the Economist shows, well-written, inspiring mission statements can make a real business difference:

The mission statement tells internal and external stakeholders what the organisation does and, by implication, what it does not do. In effect, it acts as a rudder for the ship and sets the context for all business decisions and activities in the organisation. For that reason, it should be broad enough so as not to unduly constrain a company, but narrow enough to empower decision-making by enabling priorities to be identified. Just saying 'our mission is to make money' does not help because it fails to answer the golden question, namely 'How?'.

The vision statement (what success looks like, typically in 2-3 years depending on the environment) is aligned to the mission statement and is used to set strategic objectives. These in turn are used to inform lower-level goals in a cascade system that reaches right down to individual work packages. The business benefits of having clarity and alignment from the organisation's mission statement down to the level of individuals are clear and include more efficient use of resources, improved collaboration and higher engagement (as staff are aware of how their efforts are promoting success). It may help to think of a rowing team working in unison and all pulling in the same direction.

Writing a mission statement that is both inspiring and clear enough to empower decision-making is often the most difficult part of the process. To get started, try answering these questions then consolidating your answers into 2 or 3 (maximum) short sentences:

  • Why are you in business?

  • What does your business do?

  • Who are your current and aspirational customers?

  • What makes your business unique?

  • What is the public's perception of your brand, and what would you like it to be?

If you need further inspiration, read Simon Sinek's helpful book 'Start With Why' or check out these examples from some well-known companies:

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