One of the toughest business problems start-ups have is agreeing to a common goal. In corporate circles we often summarize this exercise as "creating a mission statement". The exercise is meant to provide guidance for employees to empower them to make better decisions for the company.
Don't Let the Wrong Event Sour You on the Mission
The intent is good, but the "mission event" is often stimulated by the loss of a key employee, lack of product focus or a general dissatisfaction with the company. In the end, it's a reaction to something the business should have been doing all along. Most of us have encountered dealing with a corporate mission that doesn't resonate with anyone in the company. And confusion and disenchantment are usually the end result. Remember, your goal is to empower employees to do kick-butt work.
So is a Mission Statement Bad?
No, definitely not. It's critical for success. But it's got to gel with the people in your company before it will ever help you broadcast the right message to customers. Big, long-winded statements that project self-importance or imply market dominance rarely help a company achieve their goals. Left undefined, mission statements can create more chaos
Mission statements have to be achievable. They also have to be actionable and embraced by the company culture. Which gets us to our next item: what the heck does "mission statement" mean?
What a Mission Statement Really Is
At some point in your professional life you've probably come across a vision statement, purpose statement, mission statement, mantra or positioning statement. If you're like us, these terms seem a little disconnected from day-to-day business. Most mission statements we've read are not good. Heck, when you see poor results of companies like GM, you wonder what the point of their mission statement is:
G.M. is a multinational corporation engaged in socially responsible operations, worldwide. It is dedicated to provide products and services of such quality that our customers will receive superior value while our employees and business partners will share in our success and our stock-holders will receive a sustained superior return on their investment.
Doesn't GM make cars?!
Let's Make This Real
Because these business "statements" seem vague, we thought it would be helpful to break down the concepts into easy to understand definitions. If employees can't understand the concepts, what's the point of the statements?