Mission statements

By convention, mission statements are the starting point for strategic planning.

Some managers and business owners go along with the theory. Perhaps they do not want to appear out of touch. It may seem like a good way to involve people in planning.

Mission and
the raison d’être of the organization

Many say that the mission is the purpose of an organization. If so, a mission answers the question, "Why do we exist?" We can look at any number of statements of mission. See the hundreds of samples here. We find that most of them do not answer that question. Most are so general. What is the organization for? It is unclear.

An illustration; the mission of a manufacturing company says, “Sample Co. is a growing network of interrelated businesses... Sample Co. continuously strives to meet the needs of its customers for total value by offering a unique package of location, price, service and [product range].”

Would the Sample Co. go out of existence if it changed its product range, location, price, or offered a package of these things similar to others rather than being ‘unique’.

Would it not continue independent existence, if it were no longer a network of interrelated businesses? Could it not exist as a franchise operator, or a unified business?

This is kind of mission confuses current strategies with fundamental purpose. Many statements of mission confuse these things.

Missions are often summaries of
strategic decisions

These may be legitimate ways of achieving continuing existence. They may be strategies to achieve the ‘mission’ as purpose.

I suggest using one term for the raison d’être of the organization. This sits above all other aims. Then use another term for the summary of decisions from the strategic planning process. I use the word ‘purpose’ for the raison d’être. I think it is too hard to get people off the current use of the term mission. This is a summary of competitive positioning.

The purpose statement comes from answering these questions.

  • “For whose benefit does the organisation exist?”
  • “What is the benefit they expect?”

See statement of purpose for more on these questions.

Should a statement of mission be the beginning or the end of the strategic planning process?

Most mission and vision statements are vague about who benefits. They are vague on the nature of the intended benefit. Therefore, they cannot be the initiator, driver, or input to the strategic planning process. They are an output of the process. The enduring corporate purpose is the key input, focus, driver, of the planning process.

Another aspect is how the organization is performing in relation to its corporate purpose.

Mission statements can help communicate
strategic decisions

Missions may have a use. They can serve as summaries of the strategies being used to achieve the results for the beneficiaries. Mission statements of this sort, which most real world examples seem to be attempting to be, do not drive the strategic planning. Perhaps they help a bit in the communication and implementation of strategy.

For more ideas see 101 Mission Statements from Top Companies: Plus Guidelines for Writing Your Own Mission Statement


Return from Mission Statements to Corporate Objectives.

Return to Simply Strategic Planning Home Page.

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