Mission 101 Series
Why does your organization exist? What are its main goals? What does your company provide? The answers to these questions exist within your mission statement.
In my last article, we talked about the importance of creating a mission statement that inspires.
In this article, we’re diving into mission statements and why they matter.
You’ll discover the purpose of a mission statement and what makes it impactful. Furthermore, we’ll revisit how to write a mission statement and discuss a few successful examples from the world’s largest companies.
- A mission statement defines the foundational actions of your organization. It is a simple description of an organization’s purpose and the driving force behind the culture.
- Learn the purpose of a mission statement, how to write one and what makes a mission statement noteworthy.
What is the Purpose of a Mission Statement?
Let’s first discuss the purpose of a mission statement: to explain why your organization exists.
Mission statements give present meaning to all the actions within your organization.
Every function, every department and every person should align with what you say in your mission statement.
But it doesn’t stop there. Mission statements also give present meaning to all the actions seen outside your organization.
Your mission statement, then, has a dual purpose: to unify the people inside and outside to your organization’s highest calling.
So, let’s reflect: Why does your organization exist? It can be a difficult question to answer.
Consider this example.
Let’s say your company makes software and mobile apps that other businesses use to book and plan their corporate travel plans. While that is what you do, it doesn’t explain why you exist.
If you wanted to explain why your organization exists, you might say something along the lines of, “To simplify all aspects of business travel.”
Once you are clear on why you exist, it’s easy to explain what you do (create corporate travel software) that supports your mission.
Remember, your mission statement is seen and experienced by everyone inside and outside your organization.
Let your mission statement guide your actions, not hinder them.
Mission Statement Template
Writing your mission statement is no easy task — it takes critical thinking.
That’s why I created my very own mission statement template. In this template, you will thoughtfully curate what you believe and value, and you’ll use that to succinctly explain why your organization exists
Download my template now to get started!Download My Free Mission Statement Template
How to Write a Mission Statement in 4 Proven Steps
Ready to write a mission statement that makes an impact?
Let me break it down.
Step 1: Consider These Questions
I start writing every mission statement by contemplating the following questions:
- What beliefs do I hold to be true? Write down your beliefs. What is most important to you and your company? What assumptions do you make about the world and where your company fits into it?
- What things do I truly value? Write a detailed list of your and your company’s core values. What concepts and attributes are the most important to you?
- Why does my organization exist? What is your purpose? What do you do? Why do you do it? Write down your thoughts.
Step 2: Pick Out Compelling Action Words
The next part of this process is picking out an action word (or multiple action words) that briefly describes what you do.
Popular mission statement-esque action words include:
Feel free to pull from the list above or create your own.
Step 3: Draft Multiple Statements
The key to writing the perfect mission statement is writing multiple drafts.
Write down anything that sounds decent. It doesn’t matter how good or bad it is — just write it down.
While you’re writing, place these ideas at the forefront of your mind:
- Keep it short and simple. One to two sentences is more than enough.
- Think long-term. You’re not meant to rewrite your mission statement every few years.
- Avoid clichés. Be genuine and authentic, not trendy.
- Motivate and inspire. This statement should give your organization purpose and empower employees.
- Focus on your values. Let your beliefs guide your organization.
- Highlight uniqueness. Think about what differentiates you from the competition. What makes you better or the best?
Step 4: Refine, Refine, Refine
Your mission statement is not a string of words you’ve thrown together. It’s a succinct and powerful summary of why you exist.
So, how can you refine and improve your mission statement?
Let me share three tricks with you.
- Envision your future. Close your eyes and visualize where your organization will be in 10 years. You might even write it down. Then, think: Will this mission statement still ring true in 10 years?
- Seek input. Ask stakeholders and other essential employees what they think. Let them review a few of your drafts and see what they like and what they would change.
- Come back to it later. This is hard work. You need to take breaks, go away and review what you’ve written at a later time. By doing this, you’ll practically guarantee “aha” moments that bring more clarity and focus to what you’ve written.
Short and Simple Is Impactful
I intentionally used two words to define a mission statement — short and simple. You must understand why.
Let’s begin with short. I recently sat in a board meeting where we discussed the organization’s mission statement. When the CEO asked the board members to recite the mission statement, the anxiety in the room was palpable.
Most members got part of it right, but nobody knew the full mission statement from start to finish.
Why? It had over 50 words in an impossible-to-remember format.
That’s a huge problem!
If the board members — the appointed keepers of the mission — couldn’t recite the mission statement, how could they expect the people working in the organization to do so?
Your mission statement should be short. Your goal should be to say more with less. Don’t try to fit in words because you think they are important. If everything is important, nothing is.
A helpful exercise: Impose hard boundaries on your mission statement’s length. Limit it to 10 words or less. The boundaries force you to be intentional with your words.
Next, make it simple. Complexity is the enemy of memory. More than anything, you want to remember what your mission statement is so you can recall it when you need it the most.
For instance, take my mission statement. Here’s how you make it complex:
To have a global impact on leaders at every stage so that they grow into mature, capable people who take their organizations to the next level of growth and success.
Now, here’s what the mission statement looks like when you’ve made it simple:
To help leaders flourish.
The latter includes all of the former and then some! It can be framed in many different ways because it is short and simple.
Complex mission statements box you in; simple mission statements free you up.
6 Mission Statement Examples From Fortune 500 Companies
1. Apple’s Mission Statement
We all know Apple (and some of us even love Apple products).
But they aren’t simply popular because of their great computers and mobile phones. They’re popular because they put the customer first by creating forward-thinking products they know their customers want.
Or, to put it more concisely, you could look at their mission statement.
“Bringing the best user experience to customers through innovative hardware, software, and services”
Does this fit within my definition and purpose of a mission statement? I’d say so.
- What does Apple do? They create innovative products.
- Why does Apple exist? To offer the best user experience.
2. Walmart’s Mission Statement
Walmart is the largest retailer in the United States. But they didn’t get there without having a mission first. Their mission statement is simple yet impactful.
“To save people money so that they can live better.”
- What does Walmart do? They save their shopper’s money.
- Why does Walmart exist? So they can live better.
3. Amazon’s Mission Statement
Amazon didn’t become the world’s largest online retailer overnight. And they didn’t get their reputation by simply working hard. They had to start with a mission in mind.
“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.”
- What does Amazon do? Prioritize their customers and employees.
- Why does Amazon exist? To offer the best customer service and the best place to work.
4. Nike’s Mission Statement
Nike is arguably the most recognized shoe brand in the world – so much so that owning a pair of Nike basketball shoes is more of a status symbol than using them for their intended purpose!
So, how does a brand like Nike gain a cult-like following? By living by their mission statement.
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
- What does Nike do? Make innovative products.
- Why does Nike exist? To inspire athletes.
5. Berkshire Hathaway’s Mission Statement
Berkshire Hathaway is a multinational holding company with multiple insurance subsidiaries and other large private brands in food, retail, utilities and more. Berkshire Hathaway has been a top 10 Fortune 500 company for the last 12 consecutive years.
And despite all their growth, they remain true to their mission statement.
“Deliver the right parts exactly on time, exceed our internal and external customer requirements through continuous improvement, and provide a place for hard-working, dedicated, knowledgeable, and ethical people who believe in the company.”
- What does Berkshire Hathaway do? Continuously improve.
- Why does Berkshire Hathaway exist? To exceed customer expectations and create a great place to work.
6. Microsoft’s Mission Statement
Microsoft is the largest computer software vendor worldwide. As a standard household name, Microsoft provides products that everyone uses — from software to video game consoles. But they couldn’t achieve this success without a mission to live and work by.
“To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
- What does Microsoft do? Empower every person.
- Why does Microsoft exist? To help people and organizations achieve more.
Bonus: Awesome Motive’s Mission Statement
Awesome Motive helps small businesses grow and compete with the big guys by creating enterprise-grade technology and making it affordable. By helping these small businesses, we can help them compete with companies with more resources.
However, we couldn’t provide these superior services if we didn’t have a mission statement to guide us.
“To help small businesses grow and compete with the big guys.”
It’s short. It’s simple. Yet it still makes an impact.
- What does Awesome Motive do? Create advanced software at affordable prices.
- Why does Awesome Motive exist? To help small businesses succeed.
The Effects of a Great Mission Statement
We’ve answered “What is a mission statement?” and discussed a mission statement’s importance in defining your organization’s purpose.
But what are the effects of a mission statement?
They are subtle but significant. You can see the most profound effects (both positive and negative) in decision-making. Mission statements consciously and subconsciously guide how your organization makes decisions.
Recall the story I shared in a previous article about the poor use of words in a church’s mission statement. The emphasis was put on a place, not a people.
No small wonder, then, that their meetings led to irrational decision-making because of the negative impact on the place, even though they would have had a positive impact on the people.
The effects are also visible in how you communicate. A great mission statement weaves itself into the fabric of organizational communication. Some mission statements are so compelling that you can find them in public marketing campaigns.
The critical idea here is that you can direct conversation with your mission statement. It’s that powerful.
There are other effects your mission statement has on your organization, but decision-making and communication are the most critical.
A great mission statement primes the pathways to better decision-making and communication.
And, on the whole, organizations that are better at decision-making and communication win.
Let’s do a quick recap. In the first article of the series, we discussed creating mission statements that inspire. They complete the WHY of your core beliefs as a person or organization.
And in this article, we set out to answer the question “What is a mission statement?” and talked about the response:
A mission statement is a short and simple description of an organization’s purpose.
In the next few articles in the series, we are going to go further into understanding mission statements and their impact on your organization:
- Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement: What’s the Difference? Hint: there is a difference, and you need to be able to understand it. Great mission statements are not great vision statements. The work together, but they are different in principle and impact.
- 17 Mission Statement Examples From World-Class Organizations We will take a deeper look into mission statements from 17 different organizations and uncover the WHY behind them. I’ll give you some additional ideas that you can take when working on your own mission statement.
- How to Write a Mission Statement (and Make It Compelling) Then, we will go through an exercise to write out your mission statement. I’ll include some helpful templates to give you a starting point, and by the end, you should have all the tools you need to write a compelling mission statement.
- How to Maximize the Impact of Your Mission Statement (7 Ideas) If nobody listens, you’ve wasted your time. Once your mission statement is ready, your work has just begun. We now need to explore the work required to elevate the impact of your mission statement.
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