How To Develop a Mission Statement

A mission statement is a short succinct phrase or statement which describes the purpose of the entity (i.e., a business, program, project, organization, etc.)  The mission statement provides the most far reaching goal, as well as the high level guide by which all managers and personnel can judge the appropriateness of a decision or rank milestone work priorities. Many mission statements become the banner or tag line for specific companies or programs. John F. Kennedy gave the country its mission of "Exploring Space", as well as its first major objective of "a moon landing within 10 years".

The first step of the mission statement development process is to identify the core competency of the specific entity; i.e., the competitive revenue or operational advantage that cannot be easily displaced by a competitor. The core competency identification requires a critically objective assessment of all the current components of the entity, i.e., policies, business rules, processes, products, technology, cost structure, information dissemination, personnel components, etc. The results are reviewed in terms of the projected competitive landscape, as well as specific traditional and non-traditional competitors. The end-result of this analysis will be the few (1 to 3) strategic intents of the entity, e.g., rapid product development or lowest cost provider.

The strategic intents drive the second step or the strategic planning, which will spell out the long term goals of the entity. Depending on the entity, the strategic plan time frame could be 5, 10, 15 or more years; strategic plans are re-assessed on a regular basis. The strategic plan outlines the high level goals for each of the components of the entity, the completion criteria and the contingency plans. The shorter term tactical plans are derived from the strategic plan and provide more granular goals, milestones, objectives and contingencies.

The last stage of the mission statement development is the abstraction of the strategic intents and goals into a simple encapsulating phrase or statement. This illuminating phrase needs to be understood at the lowest level of the entity and by those outside the entity. Many entities err by creating wordy mission statements which no one can easily recall. The successful mission statement is the small set of words that optimally leverage the core competency, as well as the strategic intents and direction of the entity. Some entities have successfully extracted a succinct mission statement through the assistance of an individual with a marketing skill who was not involved in the prior analysis and planning.


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