Is Your Mission Statement Helpful?

Mission statements.  Most organizations have one.  Few groups use theirs regularly.

This article is not anti-mission-statement.  Rather, it suggests a helpful distinction between statements of mission on the one hand and core purpose statements on the other.

Brief.  Compelling.  Yawn-Proof.

A statement of core purpose answers the critically important question “Why do we exist?” in a way that is very concise and a bit dramatic—or at least expressing a sense of urgency.  “The ___ Organization exists to bring joy to children.”  Nothing boring about that.

But isn’t that a mission statement? 

Maybe.  Some mission statements meet the criteria of a core purpose statement:  short, lofty, invigorating. Others?  Others can be a bit lengthy; they address so many additional questions like “What do we do?” that they sound more like a functional description of the group’s activity rather than a motivating phrase that inspires folks to action day in and day out.  

So should I trash our mission statement?

No way!  Especially if it serves as a statement of core purpose, defined above.  If not, it’s helpful to complement a somewhat lengthy articulation of mission with a core purpose statement that your leadership team, especially, references often as they strive to remain clear on why the organization exists in the first place—how you truly do help make our world a better place.

Your core purpose statement should evoke two thoughts in folks throughout your organization:  1) That’s a good thing! and 2) I’m glad we’re doing it!  You know—like bringing joy to children.

Next steps?

If your mission statement is also a core purpose statement, congratulations!  Use it, along with answers to additional key questions, to enhance clarity in your organization. 

For those whose mission statement doesn’t express the group’s core purpose in a way that’s brief, compelling and yawn-proof, developing a statement of core purpose is very helpful.  The resource that expresses and contextualizes this gist of this post best is a book called The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni.

In Proverbs 18 we read “Without a vision the people lose restraint.”  Losing restraint in this case is considered a bad thing:  we drift, we get confused, we perish.

A statement of core purpose helps your organization avoid the frustration of confusion; make it your mission to develop and use such a statement—soon!