Defining Your Mission

June 5th, 2009

What is a mission or vision statement? In brief terms, a mission statement is a description of how an organization defines success and where it is headed going down the road. In order to be successful, a mission statement needs to be more than just words or phrases. An effective mission statement needs to be a living document that provides the necessary focus for all levels of the organization.Despite the importance of defining a mission, there have been a lot of failures to create any change in organizational performance or in what people are doing to accomplish results. One of the big problems is that mission statements fail to effectively communicate to employees on where the company is headed. Mission statements also fall short on linking strategic direction with specific goals and objectives at all levels of the organization.

It is critical for organizations to define their future business direction so employees clearly understand where they are going and how they will get there. From this platform, organizations need to develop a definition of success and a process for setting goals and objectives. Together with these steps, it is critical for the entire organization to have clarity on its sources of strength and competitive advantage.

Once organizations get these step right, they need to move forward to clarify “the what, where, and how” of competitive success. This message then needs to be effectively communicated to employees and other people who have a stake in its success. A process of setting goals and objectives at all levels of the organization needs to be complete so everyone is on the same page in order to achieve a successful execution of the mission.

In many instances I think the objective setting process can be simplified. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but there needs to be buy in at all levels and everyone needs to know their role and how they fit into the plan. Defining an effective set of objectives might sound easy, but it is a tough job and is critical to achieving success.

The key to a successful mission or vision statement boils down to the following three steps:
1. Where is our business going?
2. What are our objectives?
3. How will we accomplish our objectives?
After these three questions have been answered, the key to success is to effectively convert the answers into performance objectives for employees at all levels of the organization. Organizations that commit to this process with focus and determination will be the winners.