Your team’s (or organisation, church, and even personal) mission gives clarity to your direction, informs your strategies, and forms the basis of all your critical decisions.
The mission statement spells out your mission so that stakeholders (the team leader, team members, partners, target audience, customers, etc.) knows what you do. For yourself and your team, it serves as a reminder to help you stay on course. For others, it helps to differentiate you from other teams or organisations.
As I work with teams during the past 20 years, I often come across mission statements that are either so vague that they don’t tell me anything useful, or are so generic that they could just as well be the mission statement of another team!
These vague or generic mission statements are practically useless.
Would your team members look at your mission statement and know exactly what the team is trying to accomplish? Would your partners or target audience understand exactly what you are trying to accomplish when they look at your mission statement? Would they even recognise that it’s your mission statement?
If you are crafting a new mission statement, or your current mission statement needs improvement, here are some tips to help you do so.
Tips for crafting an effective mission statement
An effective mission statement has to answer the question:
What exactly does your team do, for whom, (by when), and to what result?
To get to that clarity, you have to start with a clear mission. If you don’t have a clearly defined mission, you need to start by taking the time to clarify your mission.
Once you have that clarity, use the following tips to help you craft that written statement.
1. Be Specific
As specific as possible.
Don’t just say “change the world”, be specific about what aspects of the world you’d like to change, and in what ways. Don’t just say “add value” but be specific about the ways you are adding value.
Is the mission statement specific to your team? Is it so general that anyone else could use it? Worse, is it so general that even another organisation in a different domain or industry could use it?
2. Be Concise
It’s a “Mission Statement”, not a “Mission Thesis”. If it takes several paragraphs to spell out your mission, it is not clear enough.
Peter Drucker said that your mission statement “should fit on a T-shirt”. While this might seem drastic, it does highlight the need for your statement to be concise.
A good consideration is this: can you and your team remember the mission statement?
3. Communicate action
An effective mission statement drives action; it helps compel your team to act and to excel. Using action verbs help make your mission statement more vibrant and exciting.
4. Use Simple Words
The mission statement’s purpose is to communicate. But communication happens only if the reader understands what it says. Simple words communicate much better than complex words.
Would everyone on your team understand what it says? Would your target audience understand what you are trying to do?
If there’s a simpler way to say something, use it.
“The mission statement’s purpose is to communicate. But communication happens only if the reader understands what it says.”
5. Avoid Jargons, Acronyms, Buzzwords
This is related to the previous point.
Jargons and acronyms communicate only to a specific group of people. This is fine if all your potential readers belong to the same group. Churches (and religiously groups, in general) tend to use jargons that are meaningless to people outside of their faith or community.
Buzzwords might make your mission statement seem fashionable or impressive, but does not bring clarity. Worse, your readers might understand it in a way different from what you intended.
The mission statement is not…
As you craft your team’s mission statement, you need to also remember that:
- The mission statement is not a tagline or a slogan. Taglines and slogans are great for communicating a powerful idea and for the rallying cry. But they are often not specific enough to communicate the mission. “Come help change the world!”, “Belong anywhere.”, “Think different.” are all great slogans, but they do not answer the “what?” question.
- The mission statement is not the vision. A vision is future-oriented and describes what you hope to become. Mission statements are present-oriented, describing what you do now.
- The mission statement is not your team’s purpose, though many organisations do include their purpose as part of the mission. The “purpose” describes your motivation for what you are doing.
Most important considerations
As you craft your mission statement, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Would your team understand what exactly it says?
- In a year or two, would you and your team still understand what exactly it says?
- Would your team know what is important for the team, when they read the mission statement?
- Would it inspire your team to action?
Look at the following mission statements. Without first doing a search on the internet, can you guess which organisations they belong to and what exactly they do? (Note: only some of them are effective mission statements.)
- “A company that inspires and fulfils your curiosity.”
- “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
- “Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
- “Our mission is to operate the best speciality retail business in America, regardless of the product we sell.”
- “We are dedicated to relieving human suffering, protecting human lives and dignity and responding to emergencies.”
- “To refresh the world… To inspire moments of optimism and happiness… To create value and make a difference.”
- “We (employees, customers, and community) partners together form a force for positive local and global change, dedicated to bettering standards of living and the environment where we and our customers live and work.”
- “Always Challenge and Lead through Creativity, we see the world a little differently and throughout our history have made our mark when we’ve had the courage to challenge convention. We create products and marketing programs that reflect the brand’s unlimited creative potential.”
What about you?
Which of the above tips is relevant to you?
What would you do to improve your team’s mission statement?