Is your mission statement a piece of dry toast?

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on July 14, 2009 in: Branding, Business - Plain & Simple

I like slightly more adventurous food (nothing crazy, of course) and that could be a result of my childhood: I grew up in a house where my mom enjoyed unbuttered toast as a snack. I can’t imagine anything duller than a piece of dry toast.

So recently, when a client asked me to look at their mission statement, I had a shudder run up and down my spine as I was reminded of the dry toast. Lots of businesses create mission statements but only a few do it well. And the rest? Their mission statements seem like dry toast: Bland! Actually, they seem like they were torn from a Mission Statement “MadLibs” game:

[Company name] is dedicated to providing excellent customer service through the delivery of [product] that meets or exceeds expectations. [Company name] will focus on value for customers while pursuing integrity, [quality 1], and [quality 2].

I understand that you need to have some of this information in a mission statement. But I think there’s a problem when you can swap your company name for any other company name and that other company would say “Yes! That perfectly describes us!”

Your mission statement SHOULD describe what you do and what you want to focus on (as in the example above), BUT it should be heavily influenced by what you do differently than everyone else! You should have a mission statement that is uniquely dedicated to your business. You shouldn’t be able to swap in any other company’s name and get them to agree that it describes them.

And don’t just stop there. I’ve seen companies that have produced varying combinations of mission statements, vision statements, shared values, vision paths, etc. Many of these end up being the dry toast Mission Statement “MadLibs” that are easily ignored.

So, where should you start? Forget crafting a mission statement, vision statement (etc., etc.) for now. Start with company objectives. It’s usually in this kind of document where you actually get the true differentiation that is so lacking in the other types of statements. Work on your company objectives first and make sure they are truly the things that are important to you. Then derive all of your other documents from it. Yes, this seems a little backwards to the way it is typically described, but I recommend this because it’s often the place where businesses actually put their unique stamp.

Put down your dry toast. Stop playing Mission Statement MadLibs and create a mission statement (plus vision statement, etc., etc.) that actually has value to your organization.

Happy Blogging!

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