Developing a Mission Statement - Leadership Strategies (2023)

By Michael Wilkinson, CMF
Managing Director, Leadership Strategies, Inc.

Adapted from our two-day course, Strategic Planning for Governments and Non-Profit

Most of us have been through the laborious process of developing a mission statement. If you were fortunate it only required three or four hours. For most teams it takes days. Some even require weeks. And we have run into more than one group which aborted the process because it was too painful.

At Leadership Strategies, we believe mission statement development has traditionally been painful because you are literally trying to do three things at once:

1. Figure out what you want to achieve;

2. Determine what you need to be in order to achieve it; and

3. Put all these thoughts in a nice, small, pithy set of words – all at the same time.

Our approach is to do these three steps, one step at a time.

A. Step 1 – Visioning

To help an organization figure out what it wants to achieve, take the planning team through a visualization exercise in which they visualize the accomplishments of the organization. Have the various vision elements grouped into categories as described below.

How to do it

1. Always precede visioning with a clear picture of where we are today (the Situation Assessment).

2. Before starting the visioning exercise, have people position themselves comfortably, with a writing pad and pen nearby.

(Video) How to Write a Mission Statement

3. In the visioning exercise, encourage people to think outside the box, to be creative, to think about what success would look like.

Sample Visioning Exercise

“Now that we have looked at where we are currently, let’s turn our minds to where we are going. I would like for us to do a brief visualization exercise. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine yourself looking at a desk calendar with the current date being shown. Watch the pages flip from today, to tomorrow, to the next day, then to the next month, and the next, and then to the next year, and the next, until we arrive at ____ date (the planning horizon). Imagine that you are in your department, listen to people talk about how great of a year we had. Listen to them describe the specific things we were able to accomplish. Ask them about the products we are selling, our facilities, our people. Listen to them talk about the publicity we have received due to our accomplishments. When you are ready, open your eyes and take a few minutes to record what you heard.”

4. Have each individual record what he saw on paper prior to sharing information.

5. Use small groups to perform a preliminary review and to record a composite of the vision elements on large cards, with each card representing a different vision element.

B. Step 2 – Goal Setting

The vision elements are then used to develop the broad goals of the organization.

Definition

Goals are broad, long-term aims that define accomplishment of the mission.

Example

“Organization – Maintain sufficient organizational and financial resources to support programs.”

How to do it

1. After completing the visioning exercise, review each small group’s visioning items.

(Video) 3 Things that Make a MEANINGFUL Vision | Simon Sinek

2. Identify common or critical themes (not quantities or time frames) among the groups. These common themes become goals (see the example of goals at the end of this section).

3. Word the common themes generically enough to ensure that the points within each group’s visioning results are included in one or more of the common/critical themes.

4. Once the common themes are agreed upon, provide definitions to each one by asking, “What words describe our intention with this goal?” Use the vision elements from the visioning exercise as a guide. Each definition should start with a verb (e.g., Provide, Maximize, Promote, Maintain), and exclude references to time or quantity. Time and quantity will be defined later in the objectives for each goal (see the diagram example).

5. Ask, “If we achieve these broad goals, does this mean we are successful? Is anything missing?”

C. Step 3 – Mission Writing

The goals then serve as a common foundation for having groups write mission statements that combine the most critical ideas in the goals.

Definition

A statement of the overall purpose of an organization. The mission should state what you do, for whom you do it, and the benefit.

Examples

“To promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability”

“Provide decision-makers with relevant and credible financial information to promote improvements in accountability and stewardship in state government.”

“Provide a forum for furthering the growth and professionalism of the meetings industry.”

How to do it

(Video) How Leaders Develop Their Mission and Vision - Myles Munroe

1. Once the goals have been identified, review the definition of a mission.

2. Review mission statements of other organizations.

3. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various mission statements.

4. Review the goals of your organization.

5. Create a flip chart with three rows labeled: “What do we do? For whom? The benefit.” Have participants brainstorm answers to each.

6. Break-up into teams to develop candidate mission statements that incorporate the ideas within the three statements.

7. Review the mission statements; identify strengths of each.

8. Select as a starting point the mission statement receiving the most support; spend a few minutes editing with the group.

9. Avoid wasting too much time having the entire planning team “word smith” the mission by assigning a writing committee to assemble a draft for later review.

At Leadership Strategies, we have found that utilizing this three step process significantly shortens the time needed to write mission statements. By starting with the larger vision, and then focusing that vision through a set of goals, groups are able to quickly achieve consensus on how to combine the goal thoughts into words. Step 3 has taken as little as 30 minutes, and averages under 90 minutes.

And for organizations that then want to write a vision statement, Step 4 is even simpler.

D. Step 4 – Writing the Vision Statement

Definition

(Video) Mission, vision, values, strategies and goals

A picture of the “preferred future”; a statement that describes how the future will look if the organization achieves its ultimate aims

What is the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement?

  • While a Mission statement gives the overall purpose of an organization, a Vision statement describes a picture of the “preferred future.”
  • While a Mission statement explains what the organization does, for whom and the benefit, a Vision statement describes how the future will look if the organization achieves its Mission.

Examples

Centers for Disease Control

MissionTo promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.
VisionHealthy People in a Healthy World.

Meeting Planners Organization

MissionTo provide a forum for furthering the growth and professionalism of the Meetings Industry.
VisionThe place where meeting planners meet.

Car Manufacturer

MissionTo provide our customers with reliable, cost-effective automobiles.
VisionThe value choice in automobiles.

How to do it

1. After writing the mission statement, review the mission and vision statements of other organizations.

2. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of various vision statements.

3. Review the mission statement of your organization and ask, “If we achieve our mission, what will be the result? What will the future look like?” Have the group brainstorm answers; record the results on flip charts. Have the group identify the two or three key concepts in the list

4. Break-up into teams to develop candidate vision statements that incorporate one or more of the key concepts. You might suggest that they limit a vision statement to less than 10 words.

5. Review the vision statements; identify strengths of each.

6. Select as a starting point the vision statement receiving the most support; spend a few minutes editing with the group.

(Video) Mission, Vision and Strategy

7. Avoid wasting too much time having the entire planning team “word smith” the vision by assigning a writing committee to assemble a draft for later review.

FAQs

How do you write a leadership mission statement? ›

"To be a leader to my team, live a balanced life and make a difference." "To inspire others to achieve great things." "To thrive in my journey through life and learn life's lessons along the way." "To be kind to others and myself."

What are the 5 questions a mission statement must answer? ›

10 Questions to Answer When Writing Your Mission Statement
  • Why are you in business? ...
  • Who are your customers? ...
  • What image of your business do you want to convey? ...
  • What is the nature of your products and services? ...
  • What level of service do you provide? ...
  • What roles do you and your employees play?
3 Feb 2015

What should a good mission statement answer? ›

Here are four essential questions your company's mission statement must answer: What do we do? How do we do it? Whom do we do it for?

What is mission based leadership? ›

In mission-based management, leaders are defined by what they follow, not who they follow or who they command. Mission-based leaders elicit perspiration through inspiration; because they first connect to the beliefs of others, they craft goals and challenges that are meaningful.

Why is mission important in leadership? ›

Mission improves strategic alignment.

Mission can help leaders establish and balance priorities, set performance goals, and align rewards and compensation at all levels.

What are the 3 key things a mission statement should have? ›

Typically, a mission statement includes a basic description of the company, its purpose, and its goals.

What are the 3 most important components of a mission statement? ›

The three components of a mission statement include the purpose, values, and goals of the company.

How do you write a mission statement in 5 easy steps? ›

5 steps to write a great mission statement:
  1. Ask yourself why your company exists and what you value.
  2. Choose your words carefully.
  3. Be ambitious.
  4. Revise your mission statement.
  5. Live it.
18 Oct 2019

What is a mission statement and why is it important to organizational strategy? ›

Mission statements guide the company forward

By identifying the purpose of your work, you can better understand the goals your company should be committed to accomplishing. Once those goals are set, you and your team can develop a sound strategy to achieve them.

What is mission statement in strategic management example? ›

A mission statement outlines a startup's underlying motivation for being in business. It spells out the contribution to society that the organization aspires to make. The mission statement is not a strategic objective, but rather the basis on which the strategic objectives and strategic plan are developed.

Why is mission statement important in strategic management? ›

A mission statement, therefore, provides the basis for judging the success of an organization and its goals. It helps the organization verify if it is on the right track and making the right decisions. It provides direction when the organization is tempted by distractions and forced to adapt to new demands.

What is a good example of a mission statement? ›

Best Mission Statement Examples. Life is Good: To spread the power of optimism. Sweetgreen: To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. Patagonia: We're in business to save our home planet.

What is the most important part of the mission statement? ›

Compelling Perspective

A good mission statement is typically concise and simple in nature. It focuses more on values and impact rather than the description of functions and processes. Be sure it expresses your organization's purpose or mission, sense of direction, and the meaning and significance it brings to people.

What is the purpose of a mission statement? ›

A mission statement is a concise explanation of the organization's reason for existence. It describes the organization's purpose and its overall intention. The mission statement supports the vision and serves to communicate purpose and direction to employees, customers, vendors and other stakeholders.

What are the 5 parts of a mission statement? ›

Your mission statement should reflect every dimension of your business from the services you provide to the products that you sell and the value proposition you have to offer. It should be actionable, substantive, dynamic, and charismatic.

What are 3 key parts of the mission statement? ›

What are the Three Parts of a Mission Statement?
  • The Key Market – Who is your target audience? ...
  • Your Contribution – The next component to a successful mission statement is outlining your contribution. ...
  • Distinction – The next component to a highly effective mission statement is distinction.

What are some examples of a mission statement? ›

12 Examples of the Best Mission Statements
  • “To inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground.”
  • “To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.”
  • “Spread ideas.”
  • “To connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
13 Feb 2020

What are the 3 key things a mission statement should have? ›

Typically, a mission statement includes a basic description of the company, its purpose, and its goals.

How do you write a mission statement in 5 easy steps? ›

5 steps to write a great mission statement:
  1. Ask yourself why your company exists and what you value.
  2. Choose your words carefully.
  3. Be ambitious.
  4. Revise your mission statement.
  5. Live it.
18 Oct 2019

What makes a strong mission statement? ›

A good mission statement embraces the expectations of a target audience for something they truly crave. For example, Zappos' mission statement is “To provide the best customer service possible.” That creates the expectation in Zappos' customers that they will deliver superior customer service each and every time.

What is the main purpose of a mission statement? ›

A mission statement is a concise explanation of the organization's reason for existence. It describes the organization's purpose and its overall intention. The mission statement supports the vision and serves to communicate purpose and direction to employees, customers, vendors and other stakeholders.

What is the most important part of the mission statement? ›

Compelling Perspective

A good mission statement is typically concise and simple in nature. It focuses more on values and impact rather than the description of functions and processes. Be sure it expresses your organization's purpose or mission, sense of direction, and the meaning and significance it brings to people.

What are the four elements of a mission statement? ›

Sure, mission statements can—and should—have that optimistic spin, but they ought to serve a real purpose. There are four key elements found in effective statements: Value, inspiration, plausibility, and specificity.

Videos

1. How to Create a Mission Statement and Vision Statement (With Examples)
(SME Strategy Consulting)
2. 5- Strategy Leadership – Vision vs Mission vs SMART Goals in Business Strategy - Chapter 2 -Lesson 1
(Americo e-Learning)
3. How to Develop a Vision for Your Organization
(SME Strategy Consulting)
4. How to Write a Vision Statement
(virtualstrategist)
5. How To Write A Mission Statement In 6 Minutes
(Build A Brand)
6. How to Write a Mission Statement That Doesn't Suck
(Fast Company)
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