Many companies, big and small, make a big deal about creating a mission statement. They carefully craft it , tell their customers, employees, and partners about it. Then, in many cases, it sits on a shelf never to be seen again. Unless you actually incorporate your mission statement into the way you do business, it isn’t worth having one.
The problem with most mission statements is that they are full of jargon and platitudes that apply to any organization, not just the one they were written for. Don’t wring your hands over the wording: focus on action instead. A mission statement is an abstraction. An organization on a mission is inspiring. Think about what it is you want your company to do — create the best personal computer, change the way people think about coffee, end hunger, etc. — and make that your charge. Mission statements can galvanize and align employees or explain to others what you do, but only if there is a true sense of purpose behind them.
Don’t put mission statements first. Get on a mission, and the other things will follow. Including the mission statement. On Apple’s site map, you can’t even find a “mission statement” link. But listen to how they talk about what they do: “Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world…Apple leads the digital music revolution…Apple is reinventing the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced its magical iPad which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.”
Don’t waste your advertising space on your mission statement. Use the space to tell people what you’ve accomplished, or what amazing thing your product will do — use it to show them what mission you’re actually on.
And if you notice that you or your organization spends an inordinate amount of time talking about how to talk about what it does, then maybe it isn’t sure what it does — and some serious soul-searching is in order. Maybe “messaging” has become a distraction. Perhaps there’s some daring goal out there with your name on it that you’re avoiding for fear of failure. But better to fail — mission-statement-less — at some audacious mission, than to have your mission statement all in order while risking nothing.