Meaningful mission statements

The website dilbert.com (the Internet home of Scott Adams’ business-parodying Dilbert cartoon) once featured an automatic mission statement generator. In the true spirit of Dilbert, the generator would return such gems as “leverage our internal synergies to create a win-win” and other such nonsense that all too often sounded like the actual mission statements businesses create. The truth is many company mission statements are not worth the paper they are written on. In fact, they belong in the circular file.

mission statement

But that doesn’t stop their use. They often appear in annual reports and in the “about” section of company websites, and may even be framed and hung in meeting rooms or reception areas. But odds are no one pays them much attention, unless it’s to laugh at them. And that’s a shame, because mission statements can be useful tools to generate employee loyalty, increase morale and boost productivity.

It’s been my experience that the best mission statements—the ones that people don’t laugh at—have the following characteristics:

  • They are created by the people who the mission statement impacts. Who wrote your company’s mission statement? The marketing department? Upper management? Mission statements only have meaning if the people that have to live them every day had a say in creating them. It’s important to sit down with employees and ask the basic questions, “What do we do here? How do we do it differently? How do we do it better?” You can bet that “leverage” and “synergy” won’t be in the end product.
  • Different departments or company divisions develop their own mission statements. While there may be an overall company mission statement, what goes on in accounting, marketing and production might be unique, and they need to have their own mission statements that supports and complements the company’s overall mission.
  • They’re usedoften. If the company mission statement is only something that appears in fine print and legal waivers in a publication, it’s not doing its job. It should be concise and catchy enough to use every day. Mission statements such as that of CVS (“We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use.”) or Nike (“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”) have a lot more cache than some tangled Frankenstein monster of cobbled together corporate lingo and business buzz-phrases.

A good writer who understands the value of collaboration and communication can help create mission statements of which a company can be proud. To dust the cobwebs off your mission statement and turn it into a useful tool for your company, call Trade Press Services today at (805) 496-8850 or e-mail us at gerri@tradepressservices.com.

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