When I help organizations formulate strategy, we start by looking at their mission statement. For most organizations, they don’t have to make any changes. After all, mission statements are broad by design and don’t usually capture specifics.
For the remaining few organizations who need tweaks to their mission statement, I put specific guardrails to avoid us falling into a rabbit hole. We capture ideas for improvement but we don’t start making changes on the spot.
Tweaking mission statements can bring up the worst in management teams. You can find yourself debating the origin and meaning of words. Do we really mean to say “collaborative” or “jointly”? Does “community” truly capture all the stakeholders we serve?
I hate these kinds of discussions.
Words are important but you can’t let strategy be derailed by someone with an open dictionary.
The reality is that mission statements serve a limited purpose in the formulation of strategy. It gives you a general direction but the real magic comes from becoming extremely clear about the specifics that will help you deliver on that mission. This is where you discuss changes in your staff, technology adoption, cultural changes and a plethora of other things.
Sometimes I hear teams say that they “have to” update their mission statement. Yet, they are still operating. Customers are being helped, bills are being paid and revenue is coming in. There’s an idea that if your mission statement was bolder, perhaps more customers would come through the door.
I don’t think I ever heard someone say, “I can’t shop in that business because I don’t agree or understand their mission statement.”
The key is to get a mission statement that makes sense for your organization and is good enough. It will never be perfect and that’s ok. Focus 99% of your time on actually improving the business.