How to Write a Mission Statement
Mission statements represent the end-state of an interactive process. Write one down. Go through the strategic planning process. Use the initial version to help inform the planning process, and then use the planning process to revise the statement if necessary. Of all the conceptual material associated with a business, a mission statement in development is the one that should be most loosely held. Once it is right, it should be tightly held.
The best mission statements reflect the penultimate goal of an organization, the reason it was founded, and continues to exist. They should not be about what it does, but the outcome of the doing. Mission statements should be short. They should be meaningful to the organization who wrote it, and to the constituencies, stakeholders and audiences intended to read it.
Think about a mission statement as being written for the personality type characterized by “be brief, be bright, be gone.” This tact implies precision. It implies honing out things that may be emotionally or organizationally aligned with people who are helping write it. For them, the mission statement needs to be broad enough that they can read in the words that were excised, knowing that they will show up later in organizational goals and objectives. Most of all brief mission statements imply a conviction on behalf of the consumer (be they employee, partner, customer or volunteer) because they will need to read it, understand it, and want to be associated with it. In a world of information overload, a mission statement gets only a brief moment to resonate.
A mission statement must be directional, not in the sense of setting direction, but in the sense of guardrails that keep the organization going in the right direction without being too limiting to innovation. A mission statement should be prescriptive of intent, not a narrative of execution. Reading a mission statement should inform the reader as much about what not to expect, as what they should expect.
A mission statement is a rallying cry, a focal point, and a reminder. Most importantly, the mission statement is an emotional connector between an organization and those who carry out the mission.