Walking through the halls of a typical office building, I asked one of the employees what they believed the mission of the organization was.
He cocked his head a bit as he sputtered out something about serving clients with excellence and working hard.
It was clear he was stringing the words together as they came out of his mouth. But when he was done, I could tell he felt somewhat pleased with himself and his creativity. I smiled, thanked him and kept walking.
Three cubicles down I asked a young woman the same question, “What’s the mission of your company?”
Her response was much more to the point: “We do public accounting.”
So which is it?
Nearly every organization has a vision or mission statement. It’s typically developed through hours of deliberation in poorly lit conference rooms or handed over by highly paid consultants telling you what you need to focus on.
And after all of that effort, you take your mission statement and bury it somewhere on the “About Us” section of your website.
Your employees never see it and your customers never understand it.
A clear vision statement and compelling mission statement is the foundation of a culture that keeps them longer. Mission and vision statements are important because they draw people in. But mission and vision statements will never keep them until each person on your team understands their role in achieving the collective goal.
Many consultants confuse vision statements and mission statements. Here is the simplest way I have been able to differentiate the two:
Vision Statement: What We Want To Do
Mission Statement: How We Get There
So how do you write either of them effectively, and does it actually matter?
Here are the 5 aspects of an effective Vision Statement:
The 5 aspects of an effective Mission Statement:
One of the most powerful activities we do with clients is help their team members write their own personal mission statement. We then have them connect that statement to what the company does.
The moment each of your employees understand that they personally empower the whole team to meet the mission, everything changes.
So how do some of America's top companies do when it comes to meeting the criteria of a great mission statement?
Here are of the most powerful mission statement:
“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” – Amazon
“To become the number 1 fashion destination for 20-somethings globally.” – ASOS
“To improve its customers’ financial lives so profoundly, they couldn’t imagine going back to the old way.” – Intuit
“Our deepest purpose as an organization is helping support the health, well-being, and healing of both people — customers, Team Members, and business organizations in general — and the planet.” – Whole Foods
“We save people money so they can live better.” – Walmart
“To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.” – American Red Cross
“To provide authentic hospitality by making a difference in the lives of the people we touch every day” – Southwest
A mission statement should be unique enough to be memorable and short enough to remember. Unfortunately, some top brands just don't get it. They try and be inspirational but come across as cryptic. They attempt to be aspirational but it isn't memorable or shareable.
Here are some profoundly disappointing mission statements from major brands:
“To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.” – Disney
“To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.” – Sony
“Shape the future of the Internet by creating unprecedented value and opportunity for our customers, employees, investors, and ecosystem partners.” – Cisco
“The Home Depot is in the home improvement business and our goal is to provide the highest level of service, the broadest selection of products and the most competitive prices.” – Home Depot
“To collect, preserve, study, exhibit, and stimulate appreciation for and advance knowledge of works of art that collectively represent the broadest spectrum of human achievement at the highest level of quality, all in the service of the public and in accordance with the highest professional standards.” - MoMA