8 Attributes of An Effective Mission Statement

Attributes of an Effective Mission Statement with hands in the air

Does Your Strategy Contain the Attributes of an Effective Mission Statement?
We find that 70% of mission statements do not meet the mark because they lack the necessary attributes of an effective mission statement.

Mission Defines your Fundamental Purpose – Your Greater Reason Why
The clearer you can be about the business you are in and your fundamental purpose, the easier it is to define a successful strategy that your key stakeholders — employees, owners and customers alike — can rally behind.  If you know the attributes of an effective mission statement, it can help to create strategic clarity.

Why Do Companies and Team Struggle with Mission Statements?
Explaining succinctly why you are in business is the aim of a well-crafted mission statement.  Unfortunately, too many companies struggle to articulate a meaningful statement of their organization’s mission. The best ones are those that define a business and its purpose in one brief, impactful, and simple sentence.

The difficulty lies in avoiding buzz words and differentiating your business from others. It is all too easy to say that “your customers always come first” or that “quality is your primary concern.” While we believe that the process of creating a mission statement is as or more important than the statement itself, neither of these phrases differentiates your business from others.

Examples of Mission Statements
Here are a few examples of mission statements from companies that you probably recognize.

  • Google’s Mission Statement: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • McDonalds’ Mission Statement: We are focused on delivering great tasting, high-quality food to our customers and providing a world-class experience that makes them feel welcome and valued.
  • Disney’s Mission Statement: Be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.
  • Nike’s Mission Statement: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
  • Budweiser’s Mission Statement: Be the best beer company in a better world.
  • Facebook’s Mission Statement: Give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Eight Attributes of an Effective Mission Statement
A well-crafted corporate mission, one that has all the attributes of an effective mission statement, usually has some semblance of the following format:

“To provide (your ideal target customers) with (your core products and services)
that deliver (distinct benefits and results).”

While each of the above mission statements have things we like, such as Google’s aspiration or Budweiser’s simplicity, here are some tips on the attributes of an effective mission statement to help get your mission right. While you do not necessarily need all eight, they are a good place to start.

1. Ideal Target Customer
Who are the key customers, markets and stakeholders that matter most and that you serve best?  Trying to be all things to all people is a clear path to mediocrity. High growth firms are almost three times as likely to be highly specific and detailed about who they serve best.

2.  Fundamental Products and Services
While your opportunities may seem endless, your mission should help provide clarity and focus.  High growth firms are 62% more likely to be highly specialized in what they offer.  What are the major products and services that your ideal target clients expect you to offer better than anyone else?

3.  Core Competencies
What are the critical few core competencies that your organization does better than anyone else?

4.  Distinctive Benefits
What are the chief benefits you provide to your major stakeholders?

5.  Desired Results
What specific results do you want to achieve?

6.  Short
Ideally you can describe the business you are in and your fundamental purpose in twelve words or less.

7.  Believable
While your fundamental purpose should be worthwhile and inspirational so employees feel they’re part of a journey that deserves their attention, the destination should be “just possible.”  It should describe something that’s worth the long-term effort, but still believable if you stretch yourselves.  A mission statement is less potent if employees find it too easy to achieve or beyond the realm of possibility for your market, industry, competition and people.

8.  Relevant
Lastly, your mission statement should be highly relevant to all internal and external stakeholders who matter most for you to be successful.  We define stakeholders as those who have influence or power over your mission and those who have an interest in its successful or unsuccessful accomplishment.

The Bottom Line
Our organizational alignment research found that strategic clarity accounts for 31% of the difference between high and low performing organizations. A clear and compelling mission is a fundamental component of that clarity.  Before you expend time and energy on putting together a mission statement:

  • Agree upon the purpose of the effort.
  • Actively involve a team that reaches across levels, roles and functions so that you get a broad view of the enterprise and what your customers value.
  • Use straightforward language and make sure your mission statement follows the eight attributes.

To learn more about creating a clear and compelling strategy for success, download 7 Ways to Stress Test Your Strategy

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