MT Masterclass - Mission statements

What are they? A good mission statement describes in a few words what your business or organisation is about, and what it intends to be. It will make sense, be written in plain language and will ring true with employees and customers. But those that are couched in abstract terms, or make ludicrous and unbelievable claims about your firm's destiny - Mission Impossible - do more harm than good. If your firm has a real 'reason to be', as Collins and Porras put it in their book Built to Last, you may not need a mission statement at all: 'A visitor could drop into your organisation from another planet and infer the vision without having to read it on paper.'

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Where did they come from? Mission statements are almost as old as modern business itself. Henry Ford was unequivocal: 'I will build a motor car for the great multitude ... when I'm through everybody will be able to afford one, and everyone will have one.' Mission accomplished. Citibank vowed in 1915 to become 'the most powerful, the most serviceable, the most far-reaching world financial institution that has ever been.' Its 1998 merger with Travelers Group got it close. All through the last century businesses tried to expressed their goals in a phrase: 'To make people happy' (Disney); 'Made in Japan will mean something fine, not something shoddy' (Sony); 'Destroy Yamaha!' (Honda).

Where are they going? Time's up for dodgy mission statements. Do you really want to have 'Passion' in the workplace? Do you need to boast about your 'Integrity'? And do you have to give these abstract nouns capital letters? Try the inverse mission statement test: if the opposite of what you say you are striving for is self-evidently undesirable - eg, 'We aim to delight our customers' - there's no need to make a song and dance about it. Make it your mission to cut the crap.

Fad quotient (out of 10) - A less than Passionate 6.

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