A mission statement is a direction setting tool for strategic planning. They set out what an organization or individual does to contribute towards making their vision a reality. They are also the basis on which organizations set objectives.

Summary by The World of Work Project


Mission Statements

A vision sets out what an organization or individual would like to achieve. However, a mission sets out what that organization or individual will do to contribute towards making that vision a reality.

A to-do list, representing what's captured in Mission Statements
Mission statements capture what you actually do.

Mission statements are created after visions in the strategy design process. They often define what an organization does, how they do it and who they do it for. Only once they have been created is it possible for an organization to start to set objectives.

Corporate objectives are really just ways to measure how an organization is doing in its effort to deliver its mission, thus to achieve its vision.

It’s worth noting that mission statements are sometimes referred to as purpose statements.

Who Has Mission Statements

Many different types of groups benefit from having them including:

A surgical team, demonstrating that lots of groups have Mission Statements
Many healthcare organizations have mission statements.

  • Companies, partnerships and for profit groups should have them
  • Divisions and sub-teams within organizations often benefit from having their own vision and mission statements
  • Charitable and third sector organizations should have them
  • Social groups and other organizations often benefit from them as they can help bring people together and set direction
  • Some individuals choose to have personal vision statements as part of their development process

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What Makes a Good Mission Statement

There is a wide variety of mission statements in the world, and they can vary a lot in quality. Some help stakeholders clearly understand what an organization does, some don’t. To be good, a mission statement should be:

Clear– Good ones are short and to the point so they are easy to communicate and understand.

Substantive – An organization’s mission should be substantive. It should actually say something real that the organization can do and measure as, opposed to just containing generalizations.

Achievable – The mission an organization sets itself should be achievable given the skills, experience, scale and capital that the organization has. There’s no point creating a totally unrealistic mission.

Memorable – There’s no point having a fantastic mission that no one in the organization can actually remember. The best ones are catchy and easy to remember and communicate.

A camera lens, bringing our the message that Mission Statements should be focused
Mission statements should be focused.

Focused – What most organizations do is quite targeted and specific, and this should be reflected in their mission statements. If mission statements are broad and unfocused, they are less helpful as strategic tools.

Motivational – Not all aspects of business and not all business are intrinsically motivating. However, an organization’s mission should be as motivating as possible. Ideally, people who hear or read the mission should want to help achieve it.

Lasting – It’s best if organizations don’t change them on a frequent basis. If possible, they should be long lasting statements that organizations can build around over multiple years.

Unique – Most industries and are populated my many competing organizations. Despite this, it’s still helpful for an organization’s mission statement to be and feel unique.

Example Statements

As with vision statements, you can find many examples of corporate missions on the internet and in corporate literature. A few examples from the point in time that we captured them include:

  • Kahn Academy – To provide free world-class education to anyone anywhere.
  • The BBC – To enrich people’s lives with programs and services that inform, educate and entertain.
  • Google – To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Learning More

Mission statements form part of an organizations strategy. We cover more aspects of strategy in posts on the VMOSA framework and Strategy Management framework. In our view, the best vision and mission statements are co-created with employees.

We’re also believers that organizations should be a force for good, so encourage them to be responsible businesses. You can learn more about responsible business in our below podcast with the leaders of a UK B-corporation:

The World of Work Project View

We don’t really have much to say about missions. They might sound a bit like management speak, but they are useful. It takes time to create them. They are often refined over the life of a business and in response to changes in the marketplace.

It’s worth validating them often and it’s important to get them right before you progress to later stages of strategy development, which often build on them.

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This post has been informed primarily by our experiences over our careers and does not reference any specific sources.

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