How to write a useful mission statement

We’re regularly told that a clear, powerful mission statement is vital for your business. It serves as a rallying point for an organisation, and it inspires team members to buy into and achieve your goals

How to write a useful mission statement

But can you remember any mission statements from anywhere you’ve worked? Most businesses have them, but they’re usually either too complicated or over-crafted, so they read like pseudo-philosophy to the point where they’re essentially meaningless.

Crafting a compelling mission statement requires very careful thought and strategic thinking. By following this simple 3-step framework, you can create a memorable mission statement that drives actual change.

Define a specific destination

Every great mission statement begins with a clear destination. It should represent the primary economic priorities for your business, the specific goals that will boost revenue and propel your company forward. 

Avoid vague statements like “increase shareholder value” and focus on tangible, measurable objectives. For example, a mission statement for a tech company might read:

“We will become the industry leader in cloud-based solutions, achieving 50% market share within three years by delivering innovative products that revolutionise data management.”

Set a realistic deadline

A deadline is a crucial component of any good mission statement. Choose a timeframe that creates a sense of urgency, motivates action and is challenging yet realistic.

This example is from a non-profit organisation dedicated to environmental conservation:

“We will restore 100 acres of endangered habitat and protect biodiversity by partnering with local communities, government agencies, and international organisations over the next three years.”

Communicate the importance of your mission

To motivate your people, the mission statement needs to articulate the “why”. Think about how your organisation’s mission will positively impact the world or address a significant problem. 

Here’s an example from a social enterprise focused on empowering disadvantaged youth:

“We will equip underprivileged students with essential life skills and opportunities, breaking the cycle of poverty and transforming lives through education and mentorship programmes.”

Highlighting the importance of the mission inspires your team and other key stakeholders. 

Develop key characteristics for success

Creating a memorable mission statement is just the beginning. Bringing it to life requires you to have two other guiding principles in place to make sure the mission is a success. The second guiding principle is your key characteristics – identify the ones your people need to accomplish your mission.

Characteristics like ‘passion’, ‘reliability’ and ‘integrity’ may sound honourable but they don’t provide tangible guidance on the qualities your team should aspire to excel at. (And, let’s face it, if you don’t have integrity, you likely wouldn’t be employed at all!)

Key characteristics take core values a step further and make them meaningful by defining the unique attributes required to succeed in your organisation. They allow you to identify specific desired traits when hiring new team members.

List all the characteristics that align with your goals before narrowing it down to the three most relevant. 

Set the critical actions everyone should take

The third guiding principle is critical actions. Think of these as the daily moves that ensure everyone is heading in the same direction. Aim for three that everyone can do repeatedly, without question, that pull you closer to achieving the mission.

Imagine if everyone showed up early because a critical action is ‘early is on time’. This simple shift has the potential to snowball and significantly ramp up productivity by leading everyone closer to achieving the bigger goals.

The power of guiding principles

Developing a clear set of guiding principles is essential for creating alignment, improving engagement and optimising productivity. These help shape culture and create a sense of purpose.

The Business on a Mission framework developed by Donald Miller empowers organisations to clearly articulate their mission, identify key characteristics that embody their ethos and establish critical actions that drive forward momentum. It acts as a catalyst for achieving goals and motivating people to take action.

So, if you have a dusty old mission statement no one can remember sat on page 450 of your staff handbook, rip it out, start again and draw up some guiding principles that will actually steer your team to success.


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