Lately, I’ve been talking plenty about mission statements—with everyone from an education client with a wonderful heritage to a new leadership development organization to my own family, the latter inspired by this WSJ article from Bruce Feiler and encouraged by my friend and colleague Cora.
At some point in every process, so many hands have been involved that it becomes less a statement and more of a journey line. When this happens to you, please don’t despair! It’s part of the process. The question I always ask to get people back on track is, “What do you do, for whom, and to what end? That’s all we need to say.” List your core values or guiding principles if you need further clarification, but you should be able to easily recite your mission statement while tying your shoe—quickly recalled and brief.
A Google search of mission statements will instantly reveal a mountain of resources for you to ponder. My favorite is the Mulago Foundation’s verb/target/outcome model, which they limit to eight words. You’re thinking, “How could that possibly work?” By cutting out flowery language and buzzwords and keeping a razor sharp focus on measurable impact.
At Intesa, for example, we included in our mission the desire to work with people who do good things in the world. Yes, we also make money; at the end of the week, we have to buy groceries. We also, however, want the comfort of knowing at the end of the workday that we can feel good about what we did and whom we helped.
That one requirement—working with people who do good things—provides us all we need to say yes or no. That’s what it does for you, too. Your mission statement should give you freedom—the freedom to say yes to projects or products that align and the license to say no when they do not.