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The mission statement describes the purpose of the organisation and its primary objectives; that is to say, explaining why the organisation exists and what positive contribution it can make to customers, service users, employees and society as a whole.
A mission statement should be defined as broadly as possible and be short, clear and powerful, in order to not limit the organisation’s future possibilities.
Some examples of mission statements from a variety of organisations in the UK are shown below:
- Ikea (retail) – “To offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (charity) – “Our mission is to ensure that animals have a good life by rescuing and caring for those in need, by advocating on behalf of all animals and by inspiring everyone to treat them with compassion and respect.”
- Amazon (retail) – “We aim to be Earth’s most customer centric company. Our mission is to continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to help consumers find, discover and buy anything, and empower businesses and content creators to maximise their success.”
- McDonald’s (restaurant) – “Making delicious feel good moments easy for everyone.”
- Information Commissioners Office (ICO) (government) – “To uphold information rights for the UK public in the digital age.”
- The NHS (healthcare) – “To provide care and services that we and our families would want to use.”
- Waitrose (retail) – “The happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business. Because the Partnership is owned in trust for its members, they share the responsibilities of ownership as well as its rewards – profit, knowledge and power.”
- Tesla (engineering) – “Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
- LinkedIn (social media) – “Connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
- BBC (media) – “To act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.”
How a mission statement works
By identifying the purpose of your organisation’s work through a mission statement, you can better understand the goals your organisation should be committed to accomplishing. Once those goals are set, you can develop a sound strategy to achieve them. A mission statement can always be changed over time as an organisation develops, enabling you to adjust your statement in new directions that better suit your business goals.
What is the purpose of a mission statement?
A mission statement serves as an important internal and external communication instrument. It should motivate employees and give them a clear focus in an organisation.
The main purpose of a mission statement is to increase employee engagement and encourage them to work effectively together to help the organisation achieve its goals. In order to use the mission statement to motivate employees, it is important for the organisation’s leadership to demonstrate the mission in their day-to-day work and how they interact with all employees.
However, mission statements are not only a form of important internal communication, they are also one of the strongest messages you can send out to the public.
Consumers, service users, clients and the public in general will find the mission statement to be an effective declaration of your organisation’s values and can judge your brand based on its mission statement to decide whether it suits their own values or not.
How to draft a mission statement
Your organisation’s mission statement reflects every aspect of your business, from how you treat your employees, how you value your customers and service users, to how you create your products and services. Creating a mission statement that uniquely describes your organisation, but that doesn’t exceed the recommended word count of around 10 words, can be a difficult task.
If you are in need of some guidance in order to draft yours, ask yourself (and your team) these questions:
- Why does your organisation exist?
- Why do you do what you do?
- What problems does your organisation solve?
- What does success look like for the organisation?
- Who does your organisation serve?
- How does it serve them?
- How does your organisation make the world a better place for your audience?
- How are you different from others in your field?
- Does your mission statement clearly and simply communicate your message?
- How clear is the language you are using?
- Could it be less than 15 words? Or even better, less than 10 words?
When creating your mission statement, you should:
- Be clear – Your mission statement should be unambiguous, simple and easy to understand. This is not the time to show off your vocabulary – use simple and specific language, and avoid buzzwords and jargon.
- Be concise – A well drafted mission statement should also be brief and to the point. This is often one of the hardest tasks, but try to keep your mission statement at 5–15 words maximum. Avoid words that are overly long or consist of multiple syllables; keep it simple.
- Make it plausible and attainable – Your mission statement should be achievable by giving you something tangible to work on. It should fall between what you are already doing and what you can work toward.
- Be inspirational – Let your organisation’s personality shine through your mission statement. It should reflect the ideas that make your organisation different from others. That said, you will want to write yours in a way that not only makes it unique, but also identifiable, so that it strengthens your brand’s identity and perception.
- Be informative – A mission statement should, above all, inform others about what you do and be a guide and inspiration to your employees. It doesn’t matter how concise or catchy it is if it doesn’t do that.
- Be balanced – When writing a mission statement, it is important to understand the balance between the mission statement as a part of your organisation’s public image and the mission statement as a part of your organisation’s internal communications.
- Welcome participation – Throughout the process of drafting your organisation’s mission statement, it is important to welcome participation from all parts of your organisation; gather insights from all your employees at all levels. It is also crucial to stay open throughout the process. It can happen that individuals will disagree on everything from the purpose to the wording.
- Review it frequently – Once finalised, your organisation’s mission statement should be reviewed frequently, so as to always accurately reflect what your organisation does and what it stands for.
We have looked at what you should include in your mission statement, but there are also things that you should avoid. The worst you can say is that you are going to be the biggest and best in your industry; this phrasing doesn’t differentiate you from your competitors.
You should also avoid the following:
- General terms that don’t mean anything.
- Making your mission statement into a strategy document.
- Waffle and use of generic terms.
- Industry jargon and acronyms.
Advantages of a mission statement
When well drafted, a mission statement captures an organisation’s core values and beliefs.
The advantages include:
- Mission statements clarify purpose and determine direction. A good mission statement serves as somewhat of a guiding star for your organisation. It is a foundation for your strategy and a guiding tool for a multitude of activities: from recruitment to marketing. By definition, you can’t prioritise everything, and your organisation’s mission statement will help you to clarify what to focus on. It serves as a basis for the organisational objectives and goals.
- Mission statements can motivate employees. They not only dictate and influence how organisations should act, but also heavily influence how employees think of their roles. A mission statement influences and shapes your organisational culture, and organisational culture is a crucial aspect of employee engagement and satisfaction. People want to believe in the work that they do.
- Mission statements provide a template for decision-making. If designed well, it will provide your organisation with a framework for making decisions throughout the organisation. Your organisation’s mission statement can help you evaluate options and decide what is best for your organisation according to your preferred future.
- Mission statements focus energy and attention. It can help your employees to work through different problems and evaluate multiple possibilities. It is especially helpful when your employees are being pulled in too many directions. A well drafted mission statement allows you to have consistency across your organisation.
- Mission statements send out a powerful message to the general public. In one or two sentences, your mission statement sums up the essence of your organisation. It speaks volumes about what you stand for, and it should make people want to know more about your organisation and support your work or buy your products or services.
- Another benefit of having a mission statement that is perhaps not so obvious, is that it is a sure-fire way to put your organisation’s vision out there for the world to see. This will potentially attract new top talent to work for your organisation, perhaps even from your competitors, or it may persuade new talent on the market, such as university graduates, to work in your organisation and help to take it to the next level. Mission statements are great tools for recruitment in order to attract the right type of candidates to your organisation – candidates who are a good fit and who share the organisation’s cultural values.
Disadvantages of a mission statement
While mission statements can have several advantages, as seen above, there are drawbacks particularly when they are poorly drafted or do not reflect an organisation’s actual operations.
The disadvantages include:
- Mission statements are often seen as a marketing tool rather than meaningful statements of intent and may be used as just a PR exercise.
- Mission statements may be ignored by senior management, causing employees to become cynical. They are ineffective if not followed by everyone in an organisation at every level.
- Mission statements can be too vague and the information is not measurable. Statements that are too broad will not define an organisation’s philosophy in an original way and will provide no direction for employees to follow.
- Mission statements can be too grand and ambitious and can damage employees’ ability to meet the publicly stated goals which can affect their morale when, year after year, those grand ambitions go unmet.
What is the difference between a vision and a mission statement?
A mission statement is a literal quote stating what a brand or organisation is setting out to do. This lets the public know about the work it does, who it does it for, and why it is doing it.
A vision statement is a brand or organisation looking toward the future and saying what it hopes to achieve through its mission statement. This is more conceptual, as it is a glimpse into what the brand or organisation can become in the eyes of employees and the general public and the value it will bring in longevity.
Mission statements vs. vision statements
Whilst organisations often use mission and vision statements interchangeably, it is important to have both. One doesn’t work without the other, because having purpose and meaning are critical for any business.
A vision statement gives the organisation direction, a mission statement drives the organisation towards that vision.
In other words:
- Mission statements describe the current purpose an organisation serves. The organisation’s function, target audience, and key offerings are elements that are often mentioned in a mission statement.
- Vision statements are a look into an organisation’s future or what its overarching vision is. The same elements from the mission statement can be included in a vision statement, but they will be described in the future tense.
Many of the best organisations have a solid mission statement attached to their brand. Having a mission statement will give you the opportunity to outline your core values and how your organisation runs. Take your time creating it; this is one thing that should not be rushed, as it is so important for your organisation and your brand.
Make sure you are clear before, during and after writing the organisation’s mission statement that you are portraying your organisation as it is and in the right way, as it outlines to the world what your organisation does and what it stands for.