This is part two in a two-part series on creating meaningful mission statements. Read part one here.
We know mission statements are important. Most people can identify a good one when they see it. So why are most mission statements a word salad of trendy business jargon wilting in its own meaningless drivel? Thankfully, we don’t need to answer this question in order to write a more meaningful mission statement.
What Mission Statements Do for Your Business
In order to talk mission statements, we need to back up a bit first. Your company brand is the culmination of your promise (your pledge to customers to deliver in a specific area) and the perception customers have of you (the sum of their experiences with you).
Brand = Promise + Perception
Mission statements often come packaged up in a trio with Vision and Purpose. Here’s how we define these three statements:
Mission Statement: What we’re trying to accomplish and who we do it for. Measurable. Should define the product/service you provide.
Purpose Statement: Why we’re trying to accomplish our mission. A core belief that drives why we do what we do and how we do it.
Vision Statement: What is possible in the future if we fulfill our mission and purpose.
While you don’t necessarily need all three, as a brand strategist I do recommend using all of them because they work together to give a complete, high-level compass for your organization and employees. All business decisions should be filtered through these statements and made under the influence of their guidance. Otherwise, what’s the point of having them? (BTW: Your strategic objectives should also take their cue from these statements.)
A Simple Formula for Creating a Mission Statement
The information included in your mission statement will depend on if you plan to use a purpose and/or vision statement as well. While there’s no hard and fast rule on this (look up the best company mission statements and you’ll see they run the gamut of including very little or very much a lot), here’s a simple way of approaching the information that can or should be included in your mission:
MUST HAVE: What your company does
OPTIONAL: How you do it | Who you do it for | Why you do it
Pretty straightforward, right? What could go wrong? Well, a lot. Here are four things to keep in mind as you write and finalize your mission statement.
1. Keep it short.
Challenge yourself to simplify, simplify, simplify. Even if you’re not going to establish a purpose, vision, and a set of core values, your mission statement still does not need to be all-encompassing of every last aspect of your organization. A short and concise mission can always be accompanied by additional language in your annual report, on your website, or in employee onboarding materials.
2. Don’t be vague.
Some organizations are so afraid of using language which clearly states what they’re going to deliver to their customers that their words form into sentences that mean absolutely nothing. Don’t be that organization. If you dilute your mission statement, you’re only inviting confusion, poor decision-making, and listlessness into your operations and culture, both of which ultimately affect your bottom line.
3. Don’t over-complicate.
This goes hand-in-hand with #1, but be wary of over-complicating your mission statement. Sometimes the thing you do is enough on its own.
Take Ben & Jerry’s mission statement*:
"To make fantastic ice cream – for its own sake."
As a company, Ben & Jerry’s is known for its focus on driving progressive social and environmental change but they don’t muddy their focus on making a quality product with their societal goals. (Psst…see that asterisk up there? More on this below.)
4. You can always change it later if your business evolves.
While you shouldn’t be changing your mission statement like you change your underwear, there is no reason you can’t update it. If your business expands or morphs, then revising your mission statement is an important part of that evolution. Just make sure you also create a plan to announce and launch the new statement to employees and stakeholders—we can help you with that, too.
Some businesses are afraid of clearly stating what they do. Don't be that business.
Get Your Stakeholders Aligned
No mission statement was ever written and approved in a silo. You’re going to have to build consensus and create alignment by bringing the right people along in the process. How you do that is going to depend on your organization’s:
- Number of years in business
What is the minimum number of people you need active and/or passive approval from? At which points in the process do they need to be included? Are you writing a brand new mission statement or adapting an old one? Have you been in business for years without a mission statement or are you a new company? Is there a pronounced vertical hierarchy or is it flatter? Taking time to outline the ideal approval process will help you mitigate roadblocks and eleventh-hour changes.
*Break the Rules
That Ben & Jerry’s mission statement above? Admittedly, it’s an oversimplified example (oh, the irony!). That’s because they actually have three categories of mission statements: Product, Economic, and Social.
There is no rule that says you can’t have more than one mission statement or that you have to follow a specific mold—even anything we suggest in this very blog post. So break the rules! Do what makes sense for your business. If your solution is simple, easy to remember and understand, and makes decision-making cleaner, then that’s what matters.
Need help cutting out the jargon?
We’ll work with you to create a powerful compass for your business. Give us a buzz.