By Steve Moran
For most of my adult life, I have felt that mission statements were silly. And I am not alone. Every time I say that in a public setting, people nod their heads and smile.
My thinking on mission statements is shifting. I continue to believe that most mission statements have little to no value. They take hours and hours to create, with everyone needing to be in complete agreement, and then if you were to go ask team members or customers about the mission statement of the places they work or shop, most would have NO IDEA.
The other big problem with mission statements is that they are often states of being rather than aspirational.
Good Examples of Bad
Here are a few mission statements (outside senior living) that experts consider to be good and yet completely miss the mark:
JetBlue: “To inspire humanity — both in the air and on the ground.”
Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
Amazon: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
The list is endless, and you might be wondering what’s wrong with them. They are not really mission statements, they are marketing slogans.
Imagine these instead:
JetBlue: “Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.” That is actually Southwest Airlines’ mission, and it is something that every single team member can embrace as their own. And look at the difference between the two airlines.
Tesla: “To create great transportation experiences for humans while saving the planet.”
Amazon: “To give customers of the world great products and great prices with amazing customer service.”
Senior Living Foresight: (You knew it was coming, right?) “To make the lives of people who live and work in senior living better.”
Mission Statements That Transform Organizations and Change the World
- They have to be big and bold. If they are not, no one will care.
- They have to be achievable. “World” peace would be dumb, because it is impossible.
- They have to be aspirational. They need to represent a journey to something or someplace, not a state of being.
- They have to be memorable. This means they can’t be too long.
- They have to be something that every single team member can own, from the CEO to the intern.
- They have to be something that can be repeated over and over and over and over and over again.
We all want to be part of something special and unique, something that changes the world. The right mission statement can be tied to the behavior of both organizational leaders and organizations.