Assessing your mission statement
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A mission statement is a statement of the company’s purpose or its fundamental reason for existing. The statement spotlights what business a company is presently in and the customer needs it’s presently striving to meet. To build a solid foundation for a successful business, it’s essential to have a written, clear, concise, and consistent mission statement. This statement should simply explain who you are and why you exist.

The mission statement of Olsen & Associates Public Relations is “Dedicated to improving and optimizing public perceptions on behalf of our clients.” If the company doesn’t live up to this mission, it has no reason to exist.

Elements of an effective mission statement

Your mission statement serves as a guide for day-to-day operations and as the foundation for future decision-making. Make sure that your statement includes the following criteria:

- Focuses on satisfying customer needs: Focus the business on satisfying customer needs instead of spotlighting your product or service.

- Based on your core competencies: Base your mission on a competitively superior internal strength or resource that your company performs well in comparison to your competitors.
McDonald’s core competency is providing low-cost food and fast service to large groups of customers.

- Motivates and inspires employee commitment: Your mission statement should be motivating. Don’t base it on making more sales or profits but on employees’ significant work and how the mission contributes to people’s lives.

- Realistic and clear: Avoid making the mission too narrow or too broad.
A mission needs to contain a purpose that’s realistic to avoid “mission creep.” Many organizations can go off on tangents that aren’t core to their purpose and are unrealistic because their mission isn’t clearly defined.

- Specific, short, sharply focused, and memorable: Write a precise statement of purpose that describes the essence of the business in words your employees and customers can remember you by.
When thinking of a length for your mission, make sure that it can fit on a T-shirt. The International Red Cross’s mission is “To serve the most vulnerable.”

- Clear and easily understood: Develop and write your mission statement so that you can quickly and briefly tell people you meet at a party or on airplanes why your company exists. If you keep that concept in mind, your statement can automatically be short and comprehensible. Make sure to give your company team a profoundly simple focus for everything it does as a business.

- Says what the company wants to be remembered for: In the end, a mission statement leaves a lasting impression. How do you want the world to think of you? Your statement can provide simple insight into why you do business.

 Evaluating your current mission statement

Many mission statements are works in progress. Others have been handed down over the years to the point that they’ve lost their relevance. If you have a mission statement, it may be time to dust it off or give it a polishing for updates or total overhauls. Generally, if five years have gone by and you haven’t even touched your mission statement, it’s definitely time for reviewing, fine-tuning, or even rewriting your mission statement.
Sit down with your senior staff or management team and evaluate your current mission. Collect everyone’s thoughts and suggestions, but the final decision on how to change the mission is the CEOs. If you do decide to change it, leave the wordsmithing to one person.
The worst thing for your planning effort is to have a mission statement that is meaningless to your staff and other stakeholders.

Note: You can use the form below to evaluate your current mission statement.

Writing a new mission statement

You’ve determined the need for a new mission statement. The three components in the list below can help you craft your mission statement.

Examples of world-class mission statements

Mission statements are as varied as organizations. Some meet all the effective criteria listed above and others deviate completely. Here are a handful of mission statements to get your creative juices flowing.

- 3M: To solve unsolved problems innovatively.
- The Elephant Sanctuary: A natural-habitat refuge where sick, old, and needy elephants can once again walk the earth in peace and dignity.
- Fannie Mae: To strengthen the social fabric by democratizing home ownership.
- Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- LCJ Marketing Source: To make your company stand out in the crowd.
- Marine Stewardship Council: To safeguard the world’s seafood supply by promoting the best environmental choices.
- Marriott Hotel: To make people who are away from home feel they are among friends and really wanted.
- Merck: To provide society with superior products and services by developing innovations and solutions that improve the quality of life and satisfy customer needs, and to provide employees with meaningful work and advancement opportunities, and investors with a superior rate of return.
- New Jersey Section of the American WaterWorks Association (NJAWWA): Dedicated to the promotion of public health and welfare in the provision of drinking water of unquestionable quality and sufficient quantity.NJAWWA must be proactive and effective in advancing the technology, science, management, and government policies relative to the stewardship of water.
- Rotary International: To support its member clubs in fulfilling the Object of Rotary by:
Fostering unity among member clubs;Strengthening and expanding Rotary around the world; communicating worldwide the work of Rotary; and Providing a system of international administration.
- Small Business Technology Solutions: To provide small businesses the functionality of big business, within a small business budget.
- Sony: To experience the sheer joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public.
- Southwest Airlines: To provide the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.
- Sun Microsystems: To solve complex network computing problems for governments, enterprises, and service providers.
- University of Phoenix: To educate working adults to develop the knowledge and skills that enable them to achieve their professional goals, improve the productivity of their organizations, and provide leadership and service to their communities.

Figure 1 : Evaluating your mission statement :

Mission statement Evaluation Yes No
The Mission statement is a statement of our company's purpose    
The Mission statement fits the current market environment    
The Mission statement is based on our core competencies    
The Mission statement is motivating and inspires employees commitment    
The Mission statement is realistic    
The Mission statement is specific, short, focused and memorable    
The Mission statement is clear and easily understood    
The Mission statement says what the company wants to be remembered for    

Consider answering these questions from your customers’ perspective and you’ll instantly see an improvement in your responses.

• What is the purpose of our business?
• What activity are we going to do to accomplish our purpose?
• What do we intend to accomplish on behalf of our customers? Or who benefits from our work?


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Follow these steps below to create your mission statement:

1. Collect ideas and opinions (either through a group meeting or an individual survey) of your senior staff and key employees about the organization’s mission. Ask for responses and input specifically on the three questions listed above. If you hold a meeting, just brainstorm and allow everyone’s ideas to be collected.

2. Collate and synthesize the responses, looking for similar themes.Develop several different versions of a draft mission statement.Consider using present tense language so the statement reflects what you are and not what you aspire to become.

3. Evaluate the different drafts against the checklist in Figure 1.

Mission Statement Evaluation Yes
The mission statement is a statement of our company’s purpose.
The mission statement fits the current market environment.
The mission statement is motivating and inspires employee commitment.
The mission statement is realistic.
The mission statement is specific, short, sharply focused, and memorable.
The mission statement is clear and easily understood.
The mission statement says what the company wants to be remembered for.
The mission statement is based on our core competencies.
(A core competency is a unique strength.)

Evaluating your mission statement.
Keep the ones that meet the guidelines in the figure and throw out the others.

4. Circulate the draft statements and ask for feedback.Have the staff vote on their favorite version.

5. Select the best one and make sure every employee receives a copy.
If you’re developing the mission statement as part of your strategic plan, consider waiting to  communicate the new mission statement until the plan is finished.
The organization’s purpose and its final mission statement shouldn’t be developed by a committee. Use the process above to solicit ideas and input, but ultimately senior management and leaders set the strategic foundation for an organization. It’s really not a democratic process.

Don’t get stuck on this part of your process. If need be, develop a mission statement or a revised statement that’s dubbed as a work in progress or a draft. Many organizations get caught up in developing the most perfect statement possible. This thought process misses the reason for a mission statement in the first place. While you can use your statement in your marketing collateral or with customers (so you may want to spell- and grammar-check it), the mission statement’s primary usage is to clearly state the purpose of your organization to your employees and other stakeholders. Sometimes it takes years to perfect the statement for public usage. In the meantime, you have a team that understands why they come to work everyday.

From the Book " Strategic Planning for dummies - By Erica Olsen" This is an excellent book and is highly recommended if you wish to learn more about strategic planning.

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