In some business circles, mission statements are received only slightly better than tax increases.
But despite the bad press that surrounds mission statements, a lot of companies continue to rely on them as a cornerstone for growth and goal-setting. What's the real story?
The real story is that the reasons given for ignoring mission statements often stem from a misunderstanding of their purpose and function. A well-crafted mission statement can provide the focus and motivation you need to take your business to the next level - if you can move beyond the myths to get the facts.
Myth #1: An organization that communicates well does not need a mission statement.
Although a mission statement can be an effective communication tool, the ability to communicate does not negate the need for a concise statement defining your company's purpose, activities, and values. In many cases, a mission statement is a logical and necessary component of an overall communication strategy because it hones the message down to a finely detailed point. Using a focused mission statement as your gauge, your ability to maintain clear and consistent communication within the organization becomes virtually limitless.
Myth #2: Most people ignore mission statements.
Another prevalent myth is that most people ignore mission statements. The problem with this one is that it simply isn't true. Investors, employees, and even company leadership turn to mission statements for guidance in assessing the company's reason for being and primary activities.
If your mission statement is convoluted and confusing, it may be a sign that the business lacks drive and focus. However, a clear, concise mission statement speaks volumes about the business' ability to understand its core competencies, and to invest its resources in areas that are critical to growth and profitability.
If key individuals ignore your mission statement, it is probably because you have done a poor job emphasizing its importance and communicating its meaning throughout the organization.
Myth #3: A mission statement guarantees universal knowledge of company goals.
Mission statements can significantly contribute to the health of a business, but they are not a panacea.
If you expect your mission statement to fulfill all of your company's goal-setting and planning needs, you are bound to be disappointed.
Goals are a natural outgrowth of mission statements, so the process of setting and communicating goals can't begin until the mission statement appears in its final form. At that point, company leadership and key personnel can initiate the important task of detailing the specific ways the company will fulfill its mission and establish benchmarks they expect to achieve along the way.
Since the mission statement itself can't possibly communicate high levels of detail in a single sentence, employees and key personnel rely on the goal-setting process to discern the role they play in making the company's mission a reality.
Rather than forcing individuals to fill in the blanks themselves, make a concerted effort to communicate company goals and discuss how they reinforce the mission statement.