Mission Statements

A mission statement is the expression of your target and means for hitting it.  What will you do and how.  Your mission statement is typically for internal management purposes only.  Don't fall for the mistake of presenting some sort of flowery prose about saving baby-seals, making the world safe for democracy or promoting enlightenment.  A mission statement is not about making potential customers feel good about you or your firm.

The purpose of a mission statement is keeping management focused on its goal.  Everything a business does can be, and should be measured against its mission statement.  If the business is engaged in an activity that does not drive it toward the fulfillment of its goal, then either the mission statement is wrong or more likely, the action is irrelevant and wasted motion.

Even in the most fortunate circumstance, not every planned move will actually forward the mission.  Sometimes interim steps fail.  One can always randomly toss darts around a pub, but while aiming at the bulls-eye dramatically increases the probability of hitting it, sometimes even the best player still misses.  That's okay.  What's important is that energy and planning are focused on the ultimate achievement--accomplishing the mission.

How about an example?  Google, Inc. lists its "mission statement" as "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."  Sounds groovy, doesn't it?  So transcendent.  So noble.  So certain for failure as a company's "mission."  Why?  What's missing?  How about making money? Keeping the lights on, the employees paid and all that less glamorous minutia necessary for a successful business.

This alleged mission statement is more properly called a "vision statement."  A more genuine mission statement might be, "become the public's premier searchable index of internet information and therefore generate revenue by selling advertising to companies and individuals who wish to message our users."  Given that Google has gone far beyond just being a search engine and now has email, phone, blogging and other services this mission statement is no longer accurate.  Perhaps it should be modified to "premier internet destination."

Whatever the current mission may be, it tells:  1) what it will do, drive internet traffic; 2) how it will do it, by attracting visitors to Google webpages through valuable content; 3) how the business model works, collecting advertising fees that pay the bills and earn a profit.  Buying or starting a magazine charging a subscription fee and selling glossy ads doesn't fit, nor does a fee contract to index the Library of Congress.  Those may be profitable business ventures, but they are outside the stated mission and consequently, beyond the business plan.  Something beyond the business plan has either not been evaluated, or has been evaluated and rejected.

The importance of the mission statement should now be evident.  It keeps a company and entrepreneur plan-centric and focused.

© William Hudnall 2011


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