Vision and Mission

by Rus Slater

Creating a mission statement

Poor mission statements fall in various categories, including death by platitude, spin not truth (or what the senior team would like us to believe) and all things to all people.

Graham O’Connell
Example

The senior manager of a public sector department decided that it was time to have a mission statement and tasked a single employee with the job of writing one. The following result was formally adopted.

It is our mission to dramatically initiate performance-based opportunities as well as to proactively leverage existing quality leadership skills to meet our customer’s needs.

The general consensus of opinion among the employees that were supposed to be fulfilling this mission was that the author was having a laugh and the manager was unable to recognise that the joke was on him!

If you want to avoid the kind of reputation likely to be created by the above example, you need to make sure that everyone involved is in a productive mindset and then follow the general guidelines explained below.

  1. Pick one central theme. The theme should be easy to understand; it should relate to your vision and your business needs, and should be easily convertible into visible behaviours and outcomes that can gain support and be measured. Ask yourselves these questions before you move on to the next step:
  • What is your theme?
  • Does it deal with a product, service or both?
  • Can it be easily understood and interpreted by your employees (remembering that managers are employees too)?
  • Is it in line with your corporate vision and therefore the missions of your colleagues?
Example

In a large UK industrial company in the early 2000s, the Finance Department mission was ‘To achieve a 40 per cent cost reduction across the company by the end of the financial year’.

Unfortunately, the rest of the organisation was working to missions that related to moving away from being a price sensitive commodity supplier towards being customer focused and bought-on-service. Problems started to arise when the finance department started locking company mobile phones so that they could only call the contact centre, while delivery staff were being urged to make contact with their customers to discuss convenient delivery locations and times.

  1. Tip

    Your mission statement may have to be mildly controversial and it should be at least slightly stretching, to provoke thought and discussion.

    Pick a sensible ‘team’ to work with you to create your mission. You may work alone in some circumstances, but it is generally reckoned to be best if you make it a team effort: for example, if the senior manager or CEO develops the mission on their own, they might miss an important factor that isn’t their area of expertise.

It is important to recognise and respect diverse approaches to the issue of the mission of the group:

  • Some may be fired with a passion for something specific that they believe needs doing
  • Others may have a more general view of what they want the organisation to achieve
  • Some may be better at identifying and analysing problems than at identifying greater goals
  • Others may be motivated by the desire to act more holistically (save the planet to grow the organisation).

Soliciting different opinions when defining a group’s mission may seem foolish or even alarming to some managers, but organisations are generally strongest when many aptitudes, interests and points-of-view can pull together. In other words, it’s a team effort.

Mission statements are a waste of time unless

  • The people in the company have had a part in creating them and then owning them
  • They understand them and believe in the sentiment.
Ray Loftus
  1. Focus on a few key attributes of your service or product.
  • Do you want to push the leading edge of your technology?
  • Do you want to accept challenges that others won’t or can’t?
  • Do you want to solve problems that are difficult and challenging to solve?
  • Do you want to break into new markets?
  • Does this key attribute bring value to your customers/shareholders/employees?
  1. Don’t rush the process, whether you are creating the mission statement alone or whether you are working with a team to widen the expertise and buy-in.
  • Brainstorming and creativity take time.
  • Building consensus takes more time.
  • Summing up the essence of the organisation and its objectives in as few words as possible takes time.
  • Checking your draft mission for realism and achievability takes even more time.
  • Remember that unlike vision, you are crafting the yardstick by which you will be measured; no one wants to approach a mission that is a ‘forlorn hope’.
  • Be sensitive to the process as well as the end result. Participants want to see that their opinions are sought and are listened to and that their concerns are met.
  • Your time and that of your employees is too valuable to just go through an exercise in frustration.
  • Creating a mission is a unique chance to build commitment, trust and morale as well as a great opportunity to show faith and value.

When Fuji went into film their mission statement was reputed to be

‘Kill Kodak’.

You have to admire it for its brevity if nothing else. I am fed up with lengthy, wordy ‘mission statements’ – that are really more of a values statement. When it comes to mission – keep it short, clear and focused is my advice.

Cathy White

Examples

Here are some mission statements that people ‘like’:

Volunteer Reading Help

Confident children, literate for life.

Virgin Atlantic
Mission One – To grow a profitable airline
Mission Two – Where people love to fly
Mission Three – And where people love to work

Google

To organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Harrods

To be the number one department store in the world for luxury branded merchandise, maintaining an unprecedented level of retail standards, expertise and profitability.

Through a combination of product, innovation and eccentricity, we aim to provide every customer with a truly unforgettable experience in our quintessentially British environment.

The World Toilet Organisation

Vision: Health and dignity to everyone through good toilets and sustainable sanitation.

Mission: Improving toilets and sanitation globally.