Want a secret productivity hack?
Create a mission statement for yourself. Mission statements are not just for companies! Everyone should have a mission statement to keep them centered and on track.
What Is A Mission Statement?
A mission statement is a concise summary of a company’s, organization’s, or individual’s unique contributions to the world. It describes aims and values that serve as guideposts for future decision-making.
A successful mission statement will include the company or your purpose, vision, and values.
- Purpose: What are you or your company here to do?
- Vision: How are you or your company going to make a difference in the future?
- Values: Why are you or your company motivated to accomplish your goals?
Research indicates that unless the mission statement accurately reflects1https://www.researchgate.net/publication/362882788_Developing_or_Revising_the_Mission_Statement the company and has a commitment from both high-level management and is known by employees, it can easily become an irrelevant document with no bearing on the workings of the company.
But a mission statement done well? Ah, that’s a thing of beauty.
A well-crafted mission statement will embody the company’s core values and personality. It will make decisions easier because leadership and employees alike use it as a common standard. In addition, it holds the company accountable for its actions and the direction its decisions take.
A mission statement is different than a vision statement. A vision statement, on the other hand, describes an ideal state the company could achieve if it met its long-term goals.
Let’s Get Personal (with Personal Mission Statements)
While mission statements are usually associated with companies, non-profit organizations, or government agencies, they can also be a powerful tool for individuals.
A personal mission statement defines you as an individual or team member and identifies your passion and unique contributions. It also helps you specify how you define success and provides a focus on how you intend to accomplish long-term goals.
Consider these personal mission statements of well-known individuals. How well do these statements match the contributions for which the person is remembered?
- “To make people happy” – Walt Disney
- “I shall not fear anyone on Earth. I shall fear only God. I shall not bear ill will toward anyone. I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.” – Mahatma Gandhi
- “I want to serve the people. And I want every girl, every child to be educated” – Malala Yousafzai
- “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” – Oprah Winfrey
From here on out, we’ll discuss mission statements in terms of a company, but keep in mind how these principles apply just as well to creating a personal mission statement.
You might also consider writing a family mission statement2https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321009946_Family_Mission_Statements.
What Makes A Good Mission Statement?
Let’s look at some examples to see what makes a killer mission statement.
- Clear: Google’s mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” is very easy to understand. It doesn’t use any fancy buzzwords or jargon, unlike Weird Al Yankovic’s “Mission Statement.”
- Concise: We love a short, catchy phrase as long as it isn’t vague. TED’s mission to “spread ideas” is about as concise as you can get. The brilliance is that it’s so simple without being simplistic, and the mission statement has also become a huge part of its branding.
- Meaningful: The non-profit Cradles to Crayons chose a mission statement that defines the group they are dedicated to helping. It “provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school, and play.”
- Specific: IKEA uses its products as the central feature of a very specific mission statement, “offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.” Now, in some ways, specificity is going to limit your target audience. That’s fine. Your product or services will be most beneficial for people with specific needs. Go ahead; you can give up trying to appeal to everyone. If that’s something you want to work on, check out 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You.
- Memorable: Walmart is an example of a mission statement, “To save people money so they can live better,” that has been tied heavily into branding, which makes it easy to remember and recognizable.
- Action-oriented: Coca-Cola uses action in more than just its mission statement, “to refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions.” Think of the many commercials that used the idea of refreshing and how Coca-Cola tied it to the emotions of optimism and happiness.
- Relevant: Tesla’s mission statement to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy” references a relevant topic of discussion in political and social circles and uses the great car analogy of accelerating to put itself at the forefront of the conversation.
- Timeless: JetBlue’s mission to “inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground” simultaneously evokes the image of the inspirational Wright brother’s flight, as well as a forward looking commitment to the future. While not specific, it’s a great example of a timeless mission statement.
How to Write a Mission Statement in 6 Simple Steps
By this point, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed by the scope of this project you’ve taken on, and you haven’t even started yet.
You’ve got this.
And if you want a bit more help, check out 15 Tips to Master Attention to Detail And Be More Productive with ideas on how to break down the project into manageable tasks.
1. Gather Supportive People
To end with a mission statement that will accurately reflect you or your company, it’s important to start by bringing in supportive people and relevant stakeholders.
One study3https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257342552_Effectiveness_of_Mission_Statements_in_Organizations_-_A_Review found the attitudes of high-level managers toward a mission statement are a powerful indicator of its effectiveness. Another concluded that there is a gap4https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271654543_Mission_statement_perception between how leaders and non-leaders perceive, with leaders having a more positive attitude towards the mission statement.
From the very beginning, a mission statement should be an opportunity to communicate to both employees and investors or customers. It’s tempting to try reaching out to “everyone,” but your company will have products or services that appeal to specific groups and repel others.
Your mission statement will be most successful when you have a clear understanding of those groups. And they all need to be included in developing the mission statement and satisfied with the final outcome to create an understanding of and commitment to the statement.
In presenting the idea to your team, you might say, “You know, we’ve been talking about clarifying our long-term goals and strengthening the sense of community. We’d like a mission statement that accurately describes who we are as a company. Are you willing to join the discussion so we ensure the final statement reflects the company from many different viewpoints?”
If you’re interested in writing your mission statement, this is time for you to take a page from President Andrew Jackson’s book and convene your “kitchen cabinet,” an unofficial group of advisors. This could be family, friends, trusted coworkers, and any others you know who can answer a question honestly. Talk with them about your priorities, values, and how you can achieve your goals. Ask for them to point out blind spots you may have and how you can clarify your vision.
2. Find What Makes You or Your Company Unique
Once you’ve brought together as many people as possible, discuss the company’s big picture.
- What is your purpose? If you don’t know your company’s purpose, try reading up on your favorite companies’ purposes. Starbucks’ purpose is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Tesla’s is “To accelerate the worlds transition to sustainable energy.” See more here.
- What are your priorities? Think about what could make the most significant impact in your company, short term, and long term. Look at some ideas here,
- What are your values? Your values as a company may look slightly different than your values. Do any of these resonate?
- What does your company take pride in? There are many ways to find satisfaction as a company, including these.
- What action word best describes your company? A company focused on enchanting experiences will have a different mission than one dedicated to dependable service. Look for ideas here.
- Who is your audience? If you’re trying to decide how to identify your target audiences, try these categories.
As you answer these and other questions, you’ll begin to understand what makes your company unique.
3. Time to Write it Down
Eventually, patterns and themes will emerge, becoming the core of your mission statement. To start, write these down in as many different ways as possible.
- What is the most inspiring way to share your mission?
- What is the simplest?
- What is the most entertaining?
- What is the best representation of your company’s personality?
For example, imagine you run a woodworking business creating high-end furniture where your priority is to create a piece that can become a family heirloom. Here are a few ideas of different ways to focus your mission statement
- Inspiring: Winding River Woodworks crafts the heirlooms of future generations. OR Winding River Woodworks builds today’s furniture for tomorrow’s memories.
- Simplest: Winding River Woodworks builds exquisite furniture crafted to last generations.
- Most Entertaining: Winding River Woodworks provides hand-crafted furniture designed to be a topic of tree-mendously lively discussion at Grandma’s funeral.
- Personality: At Winding River Woodworks, we are artists and craftsmen looking for ways to turn an idea into an heirloom.
Would you use the word “tree-mendously” in a mission statement? Probably not. But the best ideas are rarely the first ones, and taking the time to create a variety of statements also allows you to get past the common to develop the unique.
If what you come up with could be stolen by your competitors and slapped on their websites or written by a Mission Statement Generator, you’re not there yet.
4. Ask for Input
Next, it’s time to rewrite and refine. Read it aloud and consider how it sounds spoken. Take your drafts to different groups of team members and leaders. Ask for their input.
For example, you might chat with a coworker at lunch and say, “You know, I’ve been working on helping write the new mission statement. Have you heard the latest version? Can I share it with you and get your thoughts on how we might improve it?”
You might consider sending the mission statement to various groups with a satisfaction survey. Offer them a way to express their confidence in implementing each aspect of the statement in their daily work, and allow an opportunity to offer feedback and suggestions.
For a personal mission statement, send your draft to your “kitchen cabinet” and ask them how your statement compares to what they know of your priorities and goals. See if any areas are unclear.
When you have an effective mission statement that is clear, inspiring, and gets people excited, congratulations!
5. Fly, My Pretty
Finally, you have your mission statement after many hours, countless revisions, and maybe a few gray hairs.
Time to put it on the website where it will only be referenced by potential employees looking to impress their interviewer, right?
For a mission statement to succeed, it must reflect and become part of a company’s culture. Reach shows that successful mission statements are rooted in good practice5https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262852056_Mission_purpose_and_ambition_redefining_the_mission_statement. Share the mission statement with everyone: leaders, employees, customers, and anyone standing still long enough to listen. Send it out into the world and watch it soar.
Use your mission statement in strategy meetings to decide whether to invest in a new facility or an outreach program to the community. Or when it’s time to choose between two potential employees. Or how to express appreciation for your employees for their hard work.
Fundamentally, your mission statement should be the standard by which your company makes decisions.
Mission Statement Examples
Take a guess how many of the Fortune 500 companies have a mission statement?
All of them.
That’s right. The most successful companies in the US have at least one thing in common. So, how well do they adhere to their mission statement? As you read this list, think of the last commercial you saw for the company. Does their marketing match their mission statement?
- AARP: To empower people to choose how they live as they age.
- Allstate: We help people realize their hopes and dreams through products and services designed to protect them from life’s uncertainties and to prepare them for the future.
- Amazon: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
- Apple: To bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.
- Coca-Cola: To refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, to inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions.
- Cradles to Crayons: Provides children from birth through age 12 living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school, and play.
- Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and helpful.
- Harley-Davidson: We fulfill dreams through the experiences of motorcycling by providing motorcyclists and the general public with an expanding line of motorcycles and branded products and services in selected market segments.
- Hershey: Bringing sweet moments of Hershey happiness to the world every day.
- IKEA: Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible can afford them.
- JetBlue: To inspire humanity in the air and on the ground.
- Microsoft: To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
- Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. [*If you have a body, you are an athlete.]
- Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
- State Farm Insurance: To help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams.
- TED: Spread Ideas.
- Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
- Walmart: To save people money so they can live better.
- Walt Disney: To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds, and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.
“Try To Take Over The World”
So now you know reasons to consider writing a mission statement. You know reasons not to write a mission statement.
You know that a successful mission statement includes a purpose, vision, and values. You’ve learned how to write a mission statement and seen examples of mission statements from Fortune 500 companies.
You understand that a good mission statement is clear, concise, meaningful, specific, memorable, action-oriented, relevant, and timeless.
Now, your mission is this: if you were Brain, how would you improve your mission statement beyond “try to take over the world?”
Still a little hesitant about your ability for world domination? Take a look at Self-Worth: 20 Ideas to Build Self-Esteem for suggestions about your own abilities.
Not world domination.
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