A mission statement should answer the question: “Why does this business/organization exist?” Unfortunately, many companies and organizations answer a different question: “What product/service do we provide?” The difference in the answers leads to tunnel vision that can significantly impair effectiveness, and limit social impact and profitability.
When we answer “Why does this business exist?” we get to the core of the client’s needs and what our business does to satisfy that need. We leave ourselves the flexibility to evolve over time on how we satisfy that need. We also remain open to using a variety of products or services to meet that need, some of which may not yet be available.
By contrast, when we answer “What product/service do we provide?” we lock ourselves into a specific way of meeting that client need. The world may evolve around us, but we have blinders on and don’t see the opportunities and the risks.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
GREEN: “Company XYZ can assist you in obtaining LEED certification.”
o This statement obscures the broader energy and mechanical efficiency services which the company provides.
o The company may be missing opportunities to help companies certify using an alternative certification such as “Green Globes.” If LEED becomes less popular than another certification, then it will be hard to re-brand the company and its services.
o A more effective mission statement might be “Company XYZ assists commercial builders to construct certifiable green buildings.” This describes the outcome of working with XYZ, but doesn’t limit the specific services provided.
IMPACT: “Institution ABC provides individuals, organizations and networks in the social benefit sector with powerful and effective training in leadership and collaboration.”
o Much of this statement is focused on what the organization does, rather than why.
o “… individuals, organizations, and networks” includes pretty much everyone, so why have it in the statement?
o A stronger statement might be “Institution ABC develops effective social sector leaders who make a difference.”
A strong mission statement provides clarity on why the business/organization exists, without constraining what specific products/services are provided.
What is your organization’s true reason for being? What is your Why?