Most Common Mistakes When Writing a Mission Statement

Mission statements seem so inherently simple that managers don’t put much thought into them. Read: any thought into them. Because there’s no way to get a mission statement wrong. Or so they think.

Enter stage left every other mission statement ever written. Demeaning, demotivating, deteriorating, past the stage of defibrillation and ready to be deleted. These mistakes are so common that managers don’t realise how much they harm staff motivation. 

Here are some of the most common and easily overlooked mistakes in mission statements. However be warned – you might just want to loosen your collar first.

Your Mission Statement is a One Size Fits All

To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.”

– Albertsons

So you’ve done it. After minutes of thinking about how special your company is or googling good mission statement templates, you have crafted a mission statement that fits your organisation perfectly. Unfortunately it also fits every other organisation under the sun. 

Now you might be wondering why this is so bad. I mean, shouldn’t a broad mission statement mean it fits the future direction of your organisation? Perhaps – if you want future staff to be as uninspired as they are now.

A good mission statement is unique and distinctive. Just think about how great your organisation is and what they do differently. Think about unique competencies or an interesting organisational history. Now is the time to put on your beanie and begin your “I’m a special snowflake” thinking.

Your Mission Statement Needs a “Read More” Tab

Avon’s mission is focused on six core aspirations the company continually strives to achieve… (Continues on for six paragraphs)

-Avon

Your organisation might be the best in history. You might make a billion dollars per day and feed it all back into the community while saving giant pandas from extinction. You might strive to accomplish more than can fit into a concordance. However even this (as impressive as it is) does not give leeway to write a wordy mission statement.

After all it is called a mission statement for a reason. It is supposed to be concise and easily digested. I like to think of it as the back cover of your organisation – a place where stakeholders can get a good grasp of your company without being overwhelmed. Short, sweet and straight to the point.

It is also called a mission statement for another reason: it is to be all mission no data. Tell the world what you aim to achieve but not how you intend to achieve it. It should be broken into two concise categories: the definition of your business and your mission.

Try to keep it within 50 words. A common mistake is starting with “Our mission statement from 2010 onwards is to.” No no no! You don’t need to give so much context. Just get to the point and free your readers.

Your Mission Statement is a Marketing Pitch

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad

– Apple, of course

To a certain extent, a mission statement is promotional. It is to promote the business and general and inspire both customers and employees. But this mission statement stepped it up a notch. This mission statement has been called the worst on the internet. If I could make one small adjustment, this would be it:

Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 5.22.52 PM

It’s okay to have passion for your products. If it helps you to fall asleep at night by telling yourself your app store is revolutionary, that is perfectly fine. I’d even recommend saying something along those lines in the product blurb.

But please, please keep it out of the mission statement. Referring to how I defined mission statements, this is not a mission statement at all. It does not tell what you intend to do, why you intend to do it and what your business values are. I’m surprised they didn’t just make their statement “iPods 35% buy now”

Your Mission Statement Has an Expiry Date

Exxon Mobil Corporation is committed to being the world’s premier petroleum and petrochemical company. To that end, we must continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of business conduct.

-Exxon Mobil

Your mission statement might be nice and snug for your current business. But keep in mind your business is likely to evolve and adapt. By starting with a strong and future proof mission statement, you can avoid the fuss of sprucing up your mission statement at least every few years.

The best way to do with? Refer to the industry as opposed to individual products. Take for example Roger Ramsey, Waikato renovations servicer. A poor mission statement would be “We specialise in renovating small town properties with a specialisation in installing granite counters.” This statement is too specific and relates to current fads.

A better mission statement would not reference current customers, trends or specific operations. 

Is your mission statement in need of a good shake up? Comment below any tips you have to writing a perfect mission statement.

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