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Mission statement: is yours meaningful?

I love mission statements.

They can be the guidons of organizations and inspiration for employees. They can also be so vague as to be meaningless.
A mission statement should be a one-sentence, clear, concise statement that says who the company or organization is and what it does.

To give you an idea of the wide variety of mission statements, I collected seven and will now ask you to match the mission statement with the organization. Here are the organizations:

a. Mrs. Thompson’s First Grade Class, Willow Primary School, Pekin, Ill.

b. Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, South Carolina

c. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

d. Consumers Union

e. Kontron

f. Dow Chemical Company

g. The Milken Institute

Now review the mission statements listed below and match them with the organizations. The correct answers are at the bottom of this column.

1. “To constantly improve what is essential to human progress by mastering science and technology.”

2. “… is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.”

3. “… to contribute to society through excellence in education, research, and public service, drawing on core strengths in science, engineering, architecture, humanities and social sciences, and management.”

4. “Through a set of core values, (company name) employees strive to meet the needs of all our customers and partners. Our mission is guided by a set of objectives that help define the fundamental spirit and philosophy that underscore the integrity and enthusiasm with which we regard our relationships.”

5. “… will be a competitive, quality provider of energy and other services, maintaining its history of integrity and adapting to the challenges of a changing world. While exercising leadership in the community, the organization’s focus will be on exceeding customer expectations.”

6. “Our mission is to improve the lives and economic conditions of diverse populations in the U.S. and around the world by helping business and public policy leaders identify and implement innovative ideas for creating broad-based prosperity.”

7. Our mission statement is “…we will learn lots of things. We will get smart, have fun, make friends, and do our best.”

If you did not correctly match each mission statement to the organization don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault. The reason is that the mission statement should be so self-evident that no one who reads it should be confused about what the organization does. If you read a mission statement and do not know immediately what the organization does, then it is self-evident that its mission statement needs improvement.

Did you find that any of the mission statements were a bit vague? Vagueness is a special problem when the organization is a business conglomerate or an institution involved in a wide variety of activities. One way that large organizations get around this problem is to have mission statements for each company or division. Lately, some companies have adopted mission statements for each constituency that it serves. For example, there will be a separate mission statement for employees, customers, suppliers, etc.

Finally, everything the organization does should relate to the mission statement. After all, that is why the organization is in existence.

Answers: 1-f, 2-d, 3-c, 4-e, 5-b, 6-g, 7-a.

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is phil@philhardwick.com.


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