Creating A Mission Statement: Much Ado About Something
When I started working with The Leadership Program over 15 years ago, we didn’t have a mission statement. We didn’t have a vision statement. And we didn’t have any core values. We were a small group of almost 10 employees who were just doing good work with inner city youth, founded by a man who wanted to fill a need he saw literally outside his window. Almost a decade and a half later, we live and work in a world with thousands of companies that offer us a plethora of ways to make lifestyle choices, and where doing good work can go unseen.
How can mission, vision, or core values positively affect the identity of an organization? How can it impact the work that is being done?
In a world so vast, we need to feel connected, and a mission and vision statement can fulfill that need. A mission and vision statement connect the consumer of any good or service to a larger picture of the world, to the understanding that choice has vast consequences, and to a community outside of one’s immediate vicinity.
Good work alone, and word of mouth, wasn’t enough to rely on as a means of having our work known. We needed people to understand the impact of our service without having to tell them full narratives.
Then the work began with this question: What do we do?
We gathered all of our employees to find an answer and wrote the mission statement together: Leadership is a dynamic, urban organization that enriches lives, emboldens confidence, and expands options by building strong leaders in classrooms and communities. It took us years of brainstorming, reviewing, presenting, editing, and reviewing again until we all felt it was an accurate representation of what we did every day in the front lines of our schools and communities.
In general, the elements of an effective mission statement can vary by just a few degrees. However, I feel like these 2 sets of questions were the most relevant to our process:
1). What do you do? What happens because you exist? (http://www.thestoryoftelling.com/)
2). What do we do? How do we do it? Whom do we do it for? What value are we bringing? (www.forbes.com)
After we created our mission statement, we felt like we could truly understand the scope of our work. We put it on our walls, our letterhead, our proposals, and committed it to memory.
And then we came to another realization: there was so much more to our daily work that wasn’t captured in the mission statement. Why did people (like me!) stay with the company for over a decade? How did we find time for dance breaks, naturally, in our most stressful times? Where did we find our most bar-raising solutions? What made us all work across departmentally, without thinking to ask? As we continued to explore this area a bit more, we were able to identify that one of the communities in which we were enriching lives, emboldening confidence and expanding options, was our own. So we embarked on another process of creating our core values: the principles we embody, follow, and share with others while we do our good work. We repeated the group process of brainstorming, sharing, and editing and came up with our core company’s core values.
At The Leadership Program, we are collectively committed to living these ten core values consistently through our words and actions. They underlie everything we do, every interaction we have, and every decision we make. Individually and together we strive to:
- Forge the path. Enjoy the journey.
- Lead, learn, and lead again.
- Foster an inclusive community through communication, connection, and common purpose.
- Cultivate passion, creativity, joy, and a sense of adventure.
- Respond to challenges, celebrate successes.
- Create opportunities, embrace change, and support growth.
- Pursue and encourage achievement in every act.
- Make it, measure it, maintain it, and move it forward.
- Commit to finding strategic and extraordinary solutions.
- Contribute to positive change.
While we were able to work on this a group due to the smaller size of our business, here are some guidelines for creating Core Values from Zappos founder Tony Shieh.
Lastly, about two years ago we created our vision statement, a beacon for our company that lights the way for what we must always strive: Create opportunities for everyone to step into their leadership. With that one sentence, not only do we know what we are always trying to achieve, we can also let everyone else know.
While it all seems like a lot, think of it this way: your organization is on a road and the mission statement is your roadmap, the core values are the signs along the way to help you get there and provide guidance, and the vision is the horizon that inspires you to keep moving forward. No matter where you are on your organizations’ journey, you can create your own roadmap to success as well. Just take it step-by-step, and make sure everyone else is along for the ride as well.
For some really awesome mission statements, check out these at The Story of Telling
Have some tips on how to effectively create a mission statement, vision statement or core values? Please share them with us in the comments section below.