Oh, the mission statement. It’s the statement that tells the world the role of your company. It’s a statement that illustrates goals, purpose, and practice.
The problem is most mission statements don’t define the company at all. Too many mission statements contain general, undefined words. They often contain those church words that people don’t actually understand. They are safe, but yet meaningless.
Below are two examples of bad mission statement:
- By creating value for our customers, we create value for our shareholders. We use our expertise to create transport-related products and services of superior quality, safety and environmental care for demanding customers in selected segments. We work with energy, passion and respect for the individual. – Volvo
- Sony is committed to developing a wide range of innovative products and multimedia services that challenge the way consumers access and enjoy digital entertainment. By ensuring synergy between businesses within the organization, Sony is constantly striving to create exciting new worlds of entertainment that can be experienced on a variety of different products. – Sony
Seth Godin has his own take on mission statements:
“Mission statements used to have a purpose. The purpose was to force management to make hard decisions about what the company stood for. A hard decision means giving up one thing to get another. Along the way, when faced with something difficult, many managers just punted.” – http://sethgodin.typepad.com
How does the church deal with mission statements?
Well, some are just as bad as businesses. However, many do it well, because they have a well defined purpose. The church knows who they are. They know their purpose, unlike many businesses.
Rick Warren, author and founding pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California, delves deeper in church creations. In his book, Purpose Driven Church, Warren takes on the steps of defining a church in four questions.
- Why does the church exist?
- What are we to be as a church?
- What are we to do as a church?
- How are we to do it?
Through the practice of answering the questions above, a church defines its purpose. In essence, it’s mission statement. A clearly defined mission statement provides a purpose that can be used to initiate and refine a company’s plans.
In Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath, touch on the mission statements and their common problems.
“We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information. This is where so much business communication goes awry. Mission statements, synergies, strategies, visions — they are often ambiguous to the point of being meaningless.”
Taking the Warren steps above can easily be translated into any business’s mission statement:
- Why does the church exist? – Why does the company exist?
- What are we to be as a church? – What are the long-term goals?
- What are we to do as a church? – What are the short-term goals?
- How are we to do it? – How do we accomplish those goals?
The best mission statements are clear and concise. I know there are awful mission statements out there. Share your best and worst with me.