Ryan has an MBA, LCSW, and PMP. He works in healthcare administration and knows first-hand the power of a good mission statement.
A good mission statement is the foundation on which all future work is built, but most advice on mission statements is too complicated. This article provides simple and helpful tips on what mission statements are, when they are needed, how to write them, and how to make sure they serve their purpose.
- A mission is a purpose or a goal.
- All organizations and teams need a mission statement.
- The type of equipment and the stage of life determine the writing process.
- Excellent mission statements must meet five criteria.
What is a mission statement?
Mission statements are articulated purpose. What are you there to achieve? In essence, why does your team / organization exist? All organizations or teams come together and continue to exist solely because they have something to do. Find what it is and articulate it.
Who Needs a Mission Statement?
All organizations and teams need mission statements. Remember that mission statements communicate purpose. Work suffers and misaligns when the purpose is unclear, so your mission statement is crucial to getting it right.
So all teams need mission statements, but how formal should they be? Anything at the company / entity level really needs a formalized statement. The further away from that level, the less formality is needed. A temporary project team, for example, doesn’t need an etched plate, but it does need a clearly defined purpose.
I once entered a healthcare organization as a department manager. One of my first goals was to clearly understand why our department existed and what was most important to our clients. Answering those questions shaped how I led the team and determined what we accomplished together.
How do you write a mission statement?
There is a lot of good advice available in general on how to specifically write a mission statement. Following any of those processes will work in many situations. However, here I just want to provide some advice for a few different situations because the statement writing process should vary depending on the nature of the team.
New organizations or teams
Creating a mission statement at this stage is critical because it lays the foundation for your work and shapes all future development. It is similar to architecture. Why was this team or organization formed? What are we doing? These are important questions to answer.
Existing organizations or teams
Especially in large organizations, teams can exist for many years without a clearly articulated purpose. Defining the mission at this stage is similar to archeology or digging up what’s below the surface.
There are things that happen every day, so remove the layers and describe them. Why was the system designed this way? And for what purpose? What was the expected result? Once the mission is outlined and clarified, it is easier to align work toward that mission and change aspects of your strategy to carry it out more successfully.
Temporary project teams
This is the easiest situation of all. Temporary project teams are usually formed with a specific purpose or outcome. That purpose is essentially the mission of the project team. This purpose must be sponsored by someone with formal authority and must be written into the project charter under which the project team derives its authority. The questions to be answered are: What output was formed to produce this team? And at what point is the mission accomplished and the team disbanded?
What makes a good mission statement?
Once the mission statement is written and undergoes some modifications, how do you know if it is “good” or not? Remember that a mission statement is a tool designed with a purpose. Consider these criteria as a checklist. If your statement meets all of them, you are probably good enough for the job.
5 Characteristics of an Effective Mission Statement
- Congruent: Precise; practice must match paper
- Simple and clear: Understandable without explanation
- Memorable: It sticks to your head; short
- Inspiring: Build a sense of passion or desire to work toward the mission.
- Merchantable: Suitable for external use to gain confidence or communicate a purpose
Your mission is the roadmap for your team’s success
If you’re having trouble getting started or getting stuck somewhere, just start typing. If you’re in a group, start throwing idea-filled sticky notes on the wall. Just get started and get the ideas out. Somewhere in the mess is the mission, and you’ll probably know it when you see it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and belief. The content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and is not a substitute for personal advice or professional advice on business, financial, legal or technical matters.