I’m going to come right out and go on record by saying that I think Mission Statements are silly – particularly if you make them public and part of your marketing strategy. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom but since when do I care about being conventional?
A mission statement is typically used to clarify what business you are in, focus your goals, and identify your business objectives. All of that sounds fine to me – even desirable. Preparing a few succinct sentences to help your business know if it is focused on the right course and that your efforts are on track to support the objectives of the business is really something that all company’s should have … except that the problem with most mission statements is that they are incredibly stupid and obvious.
Let me guess what your mission statement might include – I bet that:
You work to provide solutions to problems
You strive to be respected by your clients
You plan for the future while keeping an eye on the past
You provide exemplary service of some sort
You lead by example
You listen to your clients needs
You help your clients achieve their goals
Surprised? I bet I just covered 95% of every mission statement out there.
Aren’t these fairly obvious and doesn’t every business – successful or not – try to do these things? They don’t add value … it’s like putting your mother on a reference list – you expect some things to be self-evident and when I call your mom, she’s not going to say anything that will be interesting or surprising about you. Your mission statement might as well say:
[Company Name] is awesome and we strive to do everything better than anyone else in the history of the future. We will try too hard, we will work too much, we will listen to everyone, and reach to exceed all needs while attempting to achieve every goal that will ever exist.
Still stupid but at least it would make me laugh.
I pulled out some of the mission statements from Fortune 500 companies … we know they’ve been successful so why not look at what they’ve done, surely they don’t have obvious and ponderous mission statements. Right?
The Bank of New York
“We strive to be the acknowledged global leader and preferred partner in helping our clients succeed in the world’s rapidly evolving financial markets.”
Great, glad to hear that they are helping their clients succeed. That’s probably a good business plan. Oh, and they want to be the leader (who doesn’t?).
“At Microsoft, we work to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that make it possible”
So, they work to help people realize their full potential … so does every teacher in the history of forever.
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
I actually like this one. It’s short and succinct and when I read it I think “Yes, that’s what they’re doing” but let’s be honest, they’re not bringing the innovation, they’re selling it.
“Our goal for Citigroup is to be the most respected global financial services company. Like any other public company, we’re obligated to deliver profits and growth to our shareholders. Of equal importance is to deliver those profits and generate growth responsibly.”
They want to be respected – the most respected actually. But as they say “Like any other public company … we’re obligated to deliver profits…” Wow, they don’t seem very happy about delivering profits to the shareholders. Bummer.
“Our mission is to provide you with an outstanding member/Customer benefit that helps you meet your organization’s objectives. We work very hard to understand your objectives, then create a program that can help you meet them. Whether you want to attract new members, retain existing ones, drive incremental sales, or reinforce member or brand loyalty, we will work with you to help you achieve those goals.”
Another bank that wants to provide outstanding benefits … that’s way better than providing terrible benefits. Probably a sound business decision call.
“To help our clients achieve their financial objectives by serving as their tax and financial partner. As the world’s largest tax services company, H&R Block has one-to-one relationships with millions of clients, helping them benefit from all of the deductions and credits available to them and build a better financial future. It is the only major company that offers a full range of software, online and in-office tax solutions, combined with financial information and suggestions that enable clients to consider how they could achieve their financial objectives. This advice — the H&R Block Advantage — includes suggestions about retirement savings, home ownership, saving for their children’s college education, eligibility for government programs and other alternatives. When clients request in-depth financial plans and investment advice, their H&R Block tax professional refers them to H&R Block Financial Advisors Inc., which can assist them with a detailed investment plan and investment services. H&R Block Financial Advisors, member NYSE, SIPC, employs more than 1,000 financial advisors serving clients in more than 150 offices in the U.S. H&R Block Inc. is not a registered broker-dealer. Clients who request information about home mortgages are referred to H&R Block Mortgage Corp., which offers a full range of retail mortgage products. Our research shows that our H&R Block Advantage advice package along with related financial services increased client satisfaction with H&R Block’s tax services. H&R Block has long been a trusted tax partner to millions of taxpayers. Now we are enhancing the value of our tax services by helping clients as their tax and financial partner.”
Just so you know, this mission statement was for H&R Block. Wasn’t sure if that was clear so I thought I’d point it out in case you missed it above … and I didn’t read it either.
Mission statements are a valuable tool for designing a point in space that a company can focus on and work towards but who are they really written for? The company? The existing clients? New clients? How about the employees – the people responsible for actually executing the mission statement?
If you feel that your company is rudderless without a mission statement, feel free to develop one. Because I am a helpful person and full of unsolicited advice, I’ve included below “Bob’s Rules for Creating the Perfect Mission Statement.”
Rule #1 - It’s a mission statement, not a mission novella.
Make it short and to the point. People still won’t read it but at least you have a fighting chance that someone might accidentally read it before they realize what they’ve done.
Rule #2 – Does it have to be public? Really?? Stop the pandering.
Mission statements are there to focus the company’s efforts when trying to make a decision, long term vision, direction. Does the public have a say in how you run the business? If the answer is ‘no’ then leave them out of it.
Rule #3 – Your Mission Statement should reflect the future
Since mission statements are really a tool to focus efforts, they shouldn’t be about who you are and what you’ve done – they should be about who you want to become and where you want to be.
Rule #4 – Keep it simple and at high level
Anything else that you think needs to be said beyond a sentence or two should be an internal document.
I hope that I’ve shed some unnecessary light on an unnecessary topic. Quit writing mission statements for other people’s benefit.
Cheers, and feel free to leave your awesome mission statement below so we can all copy it.