How Good Is Your Mission Statement?

Many executives lose interest in them. Some communicators dismiss them. And a few people have called for their death. But a mission statement and its various counterparts — purpose, vision, core values — provides a brief description of a company’s purpose and answers why the organization exists for the publics it strives to serve.

As Philip Kotler once put it, the mission statement acts as an invisible hand that guides employees to work independently and yet collectively toward the same goals. It also provides a baseline of expectations that various publics will use to define their impression of the company. And, they can serve individuals too, whether or not they are made public.

So what makes a mission statement stronger? While there are various opinions and schools of thought, there are generally four common denominators that the strong mission statements share.

• It defines what the company does.
• It defines what the objectives are.
• It considers various publics.
• It differentiates the company.

For a broader perspective on how mission statements play a role in defining the intent of a company's communication and the measurement of communication, visit the newest addition to ROC abstract series.

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Comment by Joshua Letourneau on January 29, 2009 at 1:56pm
The concept of a "Mission Statement" is the first thing you laugh about in any MBA program. It's an icebreaker as to the futility of buzzwords and platitudes often found in Corporate America.

Here's a Corporate Mission Statement Generator, so Execs can save on the worthless retreats and man-hours, costs, hot air, etc., to develop a 'meaningful' one.

P.S. Here's an experiment that is the true acid-test of Mission Statement importance: Call every friend you have that works at a company with one . . . and ask them to tell you what it is. Good luck :) . . .
Comment by Rich on January 30, 2009 at 10:46am
Hey, that's pretty funny Joshua. I love the generator. It's almost as funny as suggesting employees must be able to recite a mission statement.

That is the first thing I laughed at when ask by a Ph.D. how he could get his employees to memorize it. :)
Comment by Joshua Letourneau on January 30, 2009 at 10:57am
Rich, that's classic :) Remember how in Middle School and High School, we had "morning announcements"? I remember in 1st grade, 2nd grade, etc., having to recite the pledge of allegiance before class :) In fact, I couldn't pronounce "Indivisible" . . . and laugh to think of how it might have sounded when I tried!

I wonder if that's what it would be like today . . . if we had employees recite the mission statement before the 'start of the shift'?
Comment by Rich on January 30, 2009 at 12:13pm
Now there is an idea. We could ask employees to recite it right after the pledge and jumping jacks.

You know, the abuse of the concept of a mission statement is exactly why MBAs laugh about them.

Employees don't need to memorize mission statements. However, it might be a good idea for them to know what the company does, e.g. the MBAs at Peanut Corporation of American seemed to forget the part that weren't supposed to just process peanuts ... they were supposed to process them safely.


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