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How To Write a Truly Remarkable Mission Statement

If you say the words “mission statement” to any veteran leader, she will likely roll her eyes in horror...

How To Write a Truly Remarkable Mission Statement

Posted Friday October 10th, 2014 by in Analysis + Strategy.

If you say the words “mission statement” to any veteran leader, she will likely roll her eyes in horror as she recounts in her mind the endless hours of agony spent arguing over diction and syntax with all kinds of stakeholders (who knew so many people would have so many opinions!).

Although the vast majority of brands struggle with creating their mission, vision and values, the exercise can actually be completely fulfilling and serve as an encouraging rallying cry for the entire organization.

If you’ve wondered how to write a truly remarkable mission statement – or worse, you’re right in the middle of it – try these 6 ways to make the process not only seamless but also brutally effective:

  1. Start by carefully choosing who will be included in your exercise, and who will not. Don’t be afraid of having to include stakeholders for political reasons; rather, adjust everyone’s expectations right up front by explaining the process and letting everyone know that the clear winner of each round will be taken forward, and that this process is not a democracy (more on that later).
  2. Then, begin the process by brainstorming all of the words that represent your organization. In this case, there is no wrong answer, just a smattering of descriptors that we can use later on.
  3. Let everyone in the brainstorming session walk away with the list, and task everyone with creating their ideal mission statement from just this list of words. With no further direction than this, you’ll get a wonderful cross-section of directions for the company that will foster dialogue across everyone’s diverse perspectives.
  4. From the list of statements, see if you can gain consensus about the overall direction of the company. Generally, there is one or two people who nail it, and the question can become that of honing down rather than building up from scratch.
  5. Whenever there is disagreement based on diction or verb choice, write each sentence out with each word and leave it on the table. As the mission statement develops, you’ll be surprised how certain words drop in and out based on the meaning of the statement overall. Use action verbs and aim for intense, unique specificity.
  6. Then, when you have several concepts and there is a stalemate between the group, invite trusted, outside perspectives one-by-one. Bring them in impromptu; don’t warn them ahead of time, and don’t bring them in in groups. Outside perspectives at this point will yield several “aha” moments that will guide you along the right path.

At this point, your group is probably looking around at each other with a great sense of accomplishment. So, before you shout for joy, ask yourself this: “Could this mission statement apply to anyone else in my industry?”

If the answer is “yes,” you missed something from your word brainstorm and you need to go back to fix it!

A few guidelines for great mission statements:

a) Remarkable mission statements put a stake in the ground. In just a few sentences, it tells the world why your company is important and what you plan to do that is truly, well, remarkable! If your mission statement can apply to any other organization, then why do you exist after all?

b) Designing a mission statement is not a democracy. Although it might seem trendy to crowd-source your company’s mission, a mission statement should reflect the vision of the leadership. The job of leadership is to lead, and that means putting a stake in the ground for others to follow.

Now, you ask, doesn’t the lack of democracy conflict with point #3? Not really, because your team can give you great clarity about your own vision as a leader. Even more importantly, this exercise may reveal the fact that your team is not on the same page, which is an invaluable insight that will strengthen this exercise’s impact overall.

Finally, the process of writing a mission statement is simple, because the mission statement itself should be simple. If you find the process taking longer than 30 days, you’re trying too hard and you’ll probably end up with something as unique as vanilla ice cream.

Have you struggled with writing your company’s mission, vision or values? If so, share with us how you succeeded!


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