Take a look at your organization’s Mission Statement (you do remember it, right?). If it meets three or more of these criteria then I honestly believe it is worthless:
- It is longer than two phrases or one paragraph
- It has more than 30 words
- It is full of buzzwords (for more examples of buzzwords, see this list)
- You can’t remember it
- Neither can your staff
I guess these points make you realize what I believe makes a mission statement useful for the staff and the organization, but we will discuss that later.
What is a Mission Statement?
In many occasions (probably during the last 30 to 35 years) the industry has focused on defining What is the Mission Statement. It is commonly said that “A mission statement outlines what the company is now“, or that it is “A statement of purpose an organization is to carry out”, or even worse, The mission statement should be a clear and succinct representation of the enterprise’s purpose for existence. For more definitions, see Wikipedia, Google and BusinessPlans.
The best definition I’ve seen is “The Mission Statement is what the organization does now“.
Now, think of when was the last time somebody explained what is the Mission Statement useful for?
Probably never, right?
In plain English, the Mission Statement should guide the employees in every action they take. It should guide management’s decisions. It should also dictate what NOT to do.
Have you asked yourself this? In theory, the purpose of the Mission Statement is to provide the organization with an identity. In plain English, the Mission Statement should guide the employees in every action they take. It should guide management’s decisions. It should also dictate what NOT to do.
Let’s take a look at a couple of Mission Statements (I highlighted the buzzwords on bold):
FedEx will produce superior financial returns for shareowners by providing high value-added supply chain, transportation, business and related information services through focused operating companies. Customer requirements will be met in the highest quality manner appropriate to each market segment served. FedEx will strive to develop mutually rewarding relationships with its employees, partners and suppliers. Safety will be the first consideration in all operations. Corporate activities will be conducted to the highest ethical and professional standards.
2. Virgin Atlantic:
To grow a profitable airline…
Where people love to fly…
And where people love to work.
Now, let’s suppose you are the CIO for one of these two companies. Based on these Mission Statements, would you know how to act in every case that a new situation arises?
Assuming that you can even remember FedEx’s Mission Statement, the chances are that given its complexity, you wouldn’t even bother trying to see how a new decision would affect the company’s mission.
In the Virgin Atlantic’s case, it should be easier. If the decision does not make or maintain the company profitable, or it makes the flying experience not lovable anymore, or the environment for the employees gets affected, you will probably won’t move ahead. Thanks to its simplicity and clarity, the Mission Statement will tell you whether it is the right decision for the company.
Now that you have experienced this mental exercise, I’m hoping that you decide to go ahead now and revise your organization’s Mission Statement, to make sure it is not worthless but it also helps you guide your I.T. Department to better serve the organization.