I have been having some great discussions with some really smart folks about Mission Statements. I know, I know… This is not your standard fare “Topic Du Jour”, but bear with me… It might just affect how you think about your business.
Most companies have a “mission statement” or “vision statement” or “guiding principles” or something with a catchy name that resembles one of these. But, how many companies actually DO what their mission statements say they do? In my experience, virtually none. I looked at the mission statements of some of my previous employers and, honestly, they are just a bunch of flowery words (one was actually two run-on sentences with every buzzword you can imagine tossed in for good measure). Puh-leeze.
So, I asked some of my friends (did I mention that they are very smart?) what they thought about mission statements in general… And their’s specifically. Here are some of the responses I received:
Kevin Jessop, principal at Evolve Research, had some great insights. As the owner of a small business, he is keenly aware of what his company does:
We have a Mission Statement and it does accurately reflect what we do. However, I think Mission Statements are pretty tragic, generally.
The effectiveness of any MS should be measured by a) do employees know what it is, b) do employees live by it. In my opinion, mission statements rarely work.
He went on to tell me what the Evolve Research ‘unofficial’ MS is. And it is awesome. Give him a shout and I’m sure he’ll share it with you, too (in a proper British accent, no less!).
For another perspective, I asked Nancy Entz. VP Marketing Manager at Tinker Federal Credit Union, for her two cents… And got about a buck fifty back! (Man, smart people ROCK!)
If you’re big enough that you need a “mission statement” to get the point across, so be it. But I think the whole thing starts with having a legitimate mission.
I firmly believe most mission statements are born out of a very expensive, consultant-led strategic planning process. On the whole, they are too long, too vague and they sound like they’ve been stripped from a cheap book on employee motivation. Why can’t mission statements sound like something someone might actually say?
So… What is the TFCU Mission Statement, then?
“TFCU exists to help its members achieve their goals and realize their dreams.”
Wow. Simple, clear, concise and… Do-able. It is what they do. It’s a little open-ended, but that leaves room for interpretation, I guess.
Lori Philo-Cook, owner of InnovoMarketing, makes a great point:
Mission statements are very important. Employees cannot support/build the brand or the mission if they don’t know what they are. It’s up to senior management and the marketing department to be engaged & committed to creating a meaningful mission statement and not just pretty words. That’s what makes a difference.
Agreed. I’m seeing a trend here… Get rid of the pretty words, the buzz words, the ‘expected’ words. Cut to the truth. Define what you DO. I like it!
Finally, for a slightly different take on the subject, here is the response from Whitney Williams who manages Marketing and Business Development for “thesmallgroup” Architecture firm.
We don’t have a Mission Statement per se, but we do have a philosophy guided by this Frank Lloyd Write quote that is posted on our office wall:
“All architectural values are human values, else not valuable.”
This summarizes our firm’s guiding design principle. From a non-architect’s view point, I see how our Principal and firm tend to be mindful of that when designing projects and speaking with potential clients.
Different approach, but singing the same song. I like it. By the way, Whitney has recently jumped into the world of blogging and has some insightful things to share here.
So… How does all this affect my original supposition that MS = BS? Well… I still think that in many cases this is true. Mission Statements are a bunch of words that make the owners and/or stock holders feel good about themselves. However, when used properly, they can be an effective tool in defining what a company does and aids in keeping the entire team focused.
For B2 Design, our mission is:
We help small companies compete in a global economy.
And that is the truth.