On a Mission for Missions!
It is my mission to be certain your mission becomes an exemplary mission. Had enough talk about the mission? Unfortunately, some leaders have. Yes, in 2020 the talk of mission statements has waned a bit, but as you will see, their usefulness remains. It is far from passé to reap the rewards and harvest the power of an appropriate and effective mission. Maybe yours just needs to be dusted off, revisited, and transformed into the guiding star it should be.
Walt Disney was once asked about his dreams and vision for a project and said, “it all started with a mouse.” I like to remind groups “it all starts with a mission.” Yes, I am aware there are many who view the mission discussions as pointless and ineffective. In fact, over the last few years some have questioned if missions are outdated. I believe that the existing distrust of missions is rooted in semantics and their “identity crisis,” and the frustration among leaders in realizing their true potential.
Mission statements rose to fame and then faded a bit for “the next best thing.” Using the Google Ngram viewer one can see that mission statements really came into prominence in the 1980’s and the peak for discussion of missions in the written word was about 2004. The same analysis shows the discussion shift to vision statements, statements of purpose, core values and strategies.
Much of the debate, and the mission’s fall from favor, relates to poor crafting, frustration, ineffective implementation, and sub-par leadership. Since 2011, the mission discussions have nearly evaporated and we have not seen as much focus on their pursuit, but it is time to revisit their value.
Missions still serve a vital purpose and if you are not experiencing the value of yours, you’re probably at a disadvantage to a competitor who is. A follow-up article will address the components of a “great” mission but for now, take a look at the value they bring when missions are executed effectively.
Well-crafted missions serve as a foundation for all that your organization does. It is a cornerstone on which to build your operations, activities, services, programming, volunteer base and development efforts. When working with an organization and reading and evaluating its mission, it is easy for me as a consultant to recognize the cracks that exist in this foundation. Much like that of a structure, you need to get it right to support the rest of your efforts and to succeed in constructing the best possible organization.
An inspiring and engaging mission statement can lend credibility to your organization with its unique characteristics. Marketed well and incorporated into your daily activities, the mission comes to life and has a way of demonstrating your commitment to your words. Your efforts to craft a powerful and effective mission statement can pay big dividends if you see the commitment through.
Solid missions provide solid direction for boards, staff, volunteers and donors, but only if the mission is honored for what it is. The mission must be a guiding star, a beacon, which relates what your organization, business or task force is about.
A strong mission serves to limit a group’s struggle with those perceived, difficult decisions, and eliminate the need for unnecessary, lengthy discussions. The answers to any question should be clear by looking to the mission for direction and asking, “does this decision further our mission?” As a result, supporters make choices in an aligned manner and it builds on the crowd mentality. The directional aspect depends on the mission being accurate, representative, and relatable.
An unprecedented focus can result from a powerful mission statement that serves as a beacon. When assimilated into your work, everyone knows the direction, seeks to accomplish the same outcomes, and holds one another accountable. The increased efficiency and effectiveness of the organization is noteworthy. A well-respected and functional mission will also bring the future into focus, facilitate strategic planning, and can even impact employee satisfaction.
An unexpected outcome from a well-honed mission can be organizational unity and stronger teamwork. When there are fewer questions about where the organization is headed, and everyone understands the goal of their work, they tend to bond in the execution. Some of this will manifest in the strategic planning that follows the foundational mission.
There are additional benefits in the pursuit of a well-thought mission. While you likely already have a mission, it may be time to take a look at when it was last revisited, how accurate it is, and what steps you need to take to see it evolve into the beacon it should be. In the end, your renewed appreciation of the value of the mission was my mission!
David J. Fry is President/CEO of Effective Advancement Strategies in Greensburg and consults with businesses and nonprofits throughout Indiana. He may be contacted at email@example.com