“Purpose & Mission”
I recently attended a panel discussion where John Schlifske, CEO of Northwestern Mutual, described the importance of “purpose and mission” for his company. John said important decisions are usually grounded in the boardroom by a single employee who will remind the group about what is in the best interest of a policyholder (their customer) which inevitably leads to a clear answer and outcome. In other words, Northwestern Mutual’s purpose and mission not only define the company but each employee takes a stake in it and practices it often. This struck me as significant for a company of their size. I’ve seen several mission statements that look good on paper but how many really walk the walk like Northwestern, and do so from mail room to board room?
Do you have a mission statement? Do you and your employees practice it often, or walk the walk? Is your purpose and mission clear in everything that you do? Does your mission statement guide the outcome of strategic business decisions?
Mission Statement, Defined
The mission statement, according to wikipedia, is a formal, short, written statement of the purpose of a company or organization. It’s the company’s reason for existing. The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a sense of direction, and guide decision-making. It provides “the framework or context within which the company’s strategies are formulated.” 1 An effective mission statement often includes the following information:
- Purpose and aim(s) of the organization
- The organization’s primary stakeholders: clients/customers, shareholders, congregation, etc.
- How the organization provides value to these stakeholders, for example by offering specific types of products and/or services
The commercial mission statement consists of 3 essential components:
- Key market – who is your target client/customer? (generalize if needed)
- Contribution – what product or service do you provide to that client?
- Distinction – what makes your product or service unique, so that the client would choose you?
A company mission statement should be a clear and succinct so all employees can understand it, yet broad enough to encapsulate the corporate perspective. It should define what the company is, yet allow for creative growth. A mission statement should be unique and differentiate one company from another. According to the Center for Business Planning, a mission statement can “incorporate socially meaningful and measurable criteria addressing concepts such as the moral/ethical position of the enterprise, public image, the target market, products/services, the geographic domain and expectations of growth and profitability.” “The intent of the Mission Statement should be the first consideration for any employee who is evaluating a strategic decision. The statement can range from a very simple to a very complex set of ideas.”
The mission statement should not be confused with the vision statement, or what the company wants to be, however the two can be used interchangeably.
Here are some examples of mission statements of well known enterprises. See if you can detect the components mentioned above:
“To provide the fast food customer food prepared in the same high-quality manner world-wide that is tasty, reasonably-priced & delivered consistently in a low-key décor and friendly atmosphere.” McDonalds
“To provide economy and quality minded travelers with a premier, moderate priced lodging facility which is consistently perceived as clean, comfortable, well-maintained, and attractive, staffed by friendly, attentive and efficient people” Courtyard by Marriott
“We organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful” Google
“We inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time” Starbucks
Even the United States has a mission statement. Notice the Preamble to the Constitution below:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America
In some cases, mission statements are short one-liners supported by a set of values that set the performance standards and direct the implementation of the mission.
For example, Walt Disney’s mission is simply “To make people happy.” This is supported by their values that follow:
- No cynicism
- Nurturing and promulgation of “wholesome American values”
- Creativity, dreams and imagination
- Fanatical attention to consistency and detail
- Preservation and control of the Disney “magic”
Creating Your Own Mission Statement
No matter what size your company, having a mission statement in place will help drive consistency among decision making and remind you of your company’s purpose and reason for existence. In creating your own mission statement be sure to:
- Include your key stakeholders (i.e. employees, customers, management) for consensus and buy-in
- Write it down. Commit your mission statement to paper. Publish it on your corporate website.
- Publish it for all to see. Some companies include their mission statement on
- Practice it, or “walk the walk”. Remind yourself often of what your purpose is. It’s easy to lose sight of a company’s mission or for a mission to change and not be reflected in the published statement. Refer to it in when making strategic decisions.
Creating a mission statement is one of the oldest business planning exercises in the book. It’s interesting to note that how much new, and even many-year-old companies, are positively affected by one simple statement. Bottom line—it works!
- Hill, Ch., Jones, G. Strategic Management. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-618-89469-7, page
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.