It’s critical that a company have a mission. Having a mission STATEMENT? Not so much.
A mission is the reason that a company exists. It doesn’t have to be worthy of a nobel prize. “We make the best damn pizza in town!” is an acceptable mission. The problem comes when companies try to encapsulate their mission into a statement. And the problem gets compounded when they hire consultants to help them do it. I say this as a consultant.
I was recently in a grocery store in California — using the bathroom actually. The bathrooms were located upstairs in the employee area so I got to photograph a poster with their mission statement on it. I’ve blocked out their name because I didn’t ask for permission to use it. I took the picture because it represents the worst example of a mission statement: something everyone can agree on but has no defining characteristics. It says nothing about the company, what it does, or really why it exists. The only worse ones maybe HERE.
The funny part was, as soon as I got downstairs there was another poster right by a table of stuff for sale. The poster did a much better job of defining this company’s mission.
See what I mean? Now you know a whole lot more about the company and why it exists.
Two More Things about Mission
As CEO, you probably know why your company exists. You have a vision for where the company can go and what it can do. The definition of leadership is to inspire people to follow you. The thing that all leaders have in common is they do this by telling people where they’re going. Share your vision. Explain your mission. Over and over and over again. Explain how it informs your decisions. Spotlight others who do a good job of working to achieve the mission. Just don’t stick it on the wall next to the bathroom.
Your company’s mission (or reason to exist) needs to be adapted and adopted for each department so everyone knows how their job fits into the big picture. In the second poster, it’s easy to see how the buyers or even the stockers fit into this store’s mission. But what about the janitors, the IT department, or the people who do payroll? As a leader, be sure everyone knows how important their work is to supporting the over-all mission. That’s critical.
[This post also appeared on Medium. Thanks to Sebastiaan Shepers of Bannerconnect for reminding me about adapting the mission to every department.]