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Make Your Mission Statement More Than a Wall Ornament

Many companies spend a lot of time and money creating mission statements to highlight their products and services and align employees around a common vision. But the fact is that many mission statements fail, becoming nothing more than a wall ornament or a bunch of words tucked into a seldom-read company handbook.

For the most part, the reasons the statements fail are pretty straightforward: Fuzzy, non-specific language; interchangeable goals or visions that can be adopted by any company; lack of true, prolonged leadership support; and poor implementation.

Still, every company, big or small, should have a mission statement. Why? It’s a compass that lets customers, employees and investors know what the company stands for and where it’s headed. It builds customer loyalty and mobilizes people passionately behind a common cause. It defines the company’s collective personality, provides clear direction, and most of all, gets results. But only if it’s properly written and prominently displayed on your company’s website, brochures and other materials.

Here are some elements to consider when writing a mission statement:

Target Audience. This might include customers, employees, investors and the community. The mission statement can be targeted at a combination of these groups or just one of them.

Length. Some mission statements are only a single sentence, while others are very long and encompass visions, philosophies, objectives, plans and strategies. Generally, it’s best to come up with something in the middle that’s concise and easy to understand and actionable — a document your company will actually use to make decisions.

Tone. Establishing the correct tone involves a process of intentional word selection. If the language is too flowery and cumbersome, a great mission statement may not be taken seriously. Use appropriate language that’s directed at the target audience and reflects the makeup of the organization.

Endurance. A mission statement should be able to withstand the test of time and, ultimately, have meaning in the long-term picture of the company. By the same token, a mission statement should also remain current to reflect changes in the company and its competitive environment. A statement created years ago may no longer be relevant.

Uniqueness.Since every company is different — even those in the same industry — a mission statement should be customized to each individual company’s needs and goals.

Effective mission statements can be a great asset to an organization. When everyone is working together toward a shared goal, the company has a better chance of being successful. Mission statements should be developed as part of a strategic planning process, starting with an analysis of your company’s culture, development and prioritization of goals and objectives. After this process is done, the mission of your organization will become clear, making it easier to create a good mission statement.

Six Items to Include

  1. A statement of purpose or general non-financial goals.
  2. A statement of values.
  3. A statement of vision.
  4. Specification of behavioral standards.
  5. Identification of the company’s competitive strategy.
  6. Intent to satisfy the needs and expectations of multiple stakeholder groups.